The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading the bill granting President Duterte the authority to defer the implementation this year of the increase in membership contribution to the Social Security System.
Approval of House Bill 8317 came a day after the Lower House plenary also declared its full support to HB 8461 that also gives the President the power to suspend the scheduled increases in Philhealth premiums in times of national emergencies.
Authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, HB 8317 gives the chief executive said power to stop SSS from pursuing adjustments in premium payments in times of national emergencies and as dictated by public interest.
HB 8317 will amend Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act providing for a gradual increase in monthly premium payments of both employees and employers to the SSS.
Velasco also authored HB 8461 that will allow the chief executive to suspend implementation of scheduled increase in Philhealth premium rates.
The bill, in effect, will only defer the mandated premium adjustments. Implementation will fall on the years following the lifting by the President of the suspension.
HB 8461 deals on Section 10 of Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act that mandates hike in membership premium this year.
In other instances the President shall consult with Philhealth and SSS prior to the decision to defer premium rate increases.
Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina City Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo co-authored HB 8461.
In pushing for passage of her proposal, Quimbo noted that supporters of UHC law did not foresee the COVID-19 pandemic “that has battered our public health care sector and our people’s livelihood in the past year.”
“Given the ongoing economic hardships, we can expect difficulty on the part of Philhealth members and employers to comply with the increased premium this year. Such increases will only further decrease households’ disposable incomes and stifle consumption,” noted Quimbo.
Velasco also cited the COVID-19 situation in justifying his bill.
“These are extraordinary times and Congress must respond accordingly,” Velasco said, as he called for swift approval of the two bills that both aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by Filipino workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Aside from Velasco’s proposal, other bills related to the unpopular SSS premium hike are HB 8304 that proposed the suspension of the scheduled increase; HB 8310 removing the automatic increase of premium contributions; HB 8313 calling for a two-year deferment of the contribution rates and HB 8315 and 8422, also calling for suspension of the hike in contribution.
During the committee deliberation of HB 8317, SSS President Aurora Ignacio warned that the bills that sought to prevent the implementation of the premium adjustments “tend to weaken rather than strengthen the SSS, especially in these difficult times.”
Ignacio warned that the “considerable strain” in the social pension fund would have strong adverse financial impacts on the distribution of benefits to pensioners, active members and other beneficiaries. (