State-run Social Security System (SSS) said that its sickness benefit payouts dropped last year due to the government’s nationwide community quarantine measures.
Aurora C. Ignacio, SSS president and chief executive said the pension fund’s disbursements for sickness benefits reached P1.82 billion in January to December 2020, lower by 38.6 percent compared with the previous year.
Ignacio attributed the decrease in applications to the nationwide community quarantine, which affected transactions in branches, particularly filing for various benefit claims.
Data from the SSS showed that sickness benefit disbursements were on an upward trend in the past several years. In 2016, it stood at P2.17 billion, and P2.42 billion in the following year. The amount further rose to P2.65 billion in 2018 and P2.97 billion in 2019.
The same trend was observed in the number of beneficiaries who availed of SS sickness benefits. In 2016, 388,623 members were paid out, then it rose to 419,563 in 2017; 428,296 in 2018; and 458,851 in 2019. Last year, the number declined to 269,604 members.
“We are expecting the figures will increase for 2021 as the government eases community quarantine guidelines that will allow more people to go out of their respective homes,” Ignacio said in a statement on Friday, March 19.
The SSS sickness benefit—which came from the Social Security (SS) Fund—is a daily cash allowance granted to qualified members confined at home or in the hospital for at least four days, including the recovery period due to an illness or injury.
The number of compensable days is up to 120 days per calendar year that can be extended for another 120 days the following year on account of the same medical condition. Illnesses or injuries that persist for over 240 days can qualify for SSS disability benefits.
In July 2020, SSS implemented the Social Security (SS) Sickness Benefit Reimbursement Applications (SBRAs) of employers online through its website.
The online facility for SBRAs is available at the My.SSS web portal.
It allows employers to file sickness benefit reimbursement claims conveniently, without having to wait for the hard copy of the approved sickness notification and the need to submit a duly accomplished SBRA form to an SSS office after giving advance payment to the employee.
Ignacio said the development of this online facility is aligned with the SSS’ ongoing digital transformation drive, now made more significant due to the health and safety protocols imposed by the government to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Aside from expediting the processing time of sickness benefit reimbursements by eliminating the transmission of claims from SSS Branches to Processing Centers, this online facility will also reduce face-to-face interactions in our branches to help government efforts to stop spreading the virus,” Ignacio added.
Disbursements for sickness benefit under the Employees’ Compensation (EC) Fund also decreased in 2020 to P186.41 million, benefitting 22,757 members.
EC sickness benefit disbursement in 2016 reached P100.44 million to 25,201 members, then P121.29 million for 30,325 members in 2017, to P140.13 million for 31,662 members in 2018, and then P257.01 million for 34,860 in 2019.
The pension fund has a total of 38.8 million members as of December 2020, of which only 41.7 percent or 16.18 million are regular paying members.