The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a proposal granting the President the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
The chamber passed via voice vote House Bill 8461, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act.
The proposal will grant the President of the Philippines power, in consultation with the Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Health, and PhilHealth Board, to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, principal author of the bill, said suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates would provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments.
“While we recognize that the (PhilHealth) only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans (countrymen) under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said.
He said Filipinos have barely recovered from the losses and difficulties brought about by the restrictions designed to contain the deadly virus.
“These are extraordinary times, thus the remedy needed to further unburden our countrymen are also extraordinary. These are necessary measures that need to be taken in order for us in government to extend help to those who need them the most,” Velasco said.
House health committee chair Angelina Tan, sponsor of the bill, said the premium hike suspension would provide PhilHealth contributors immediate relief amid the difficult times brought about by the pandemic.
Tan, however, noted that it should not in any manner undermine the ideals and goals of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, which has a noble intention of ensuring that all Filipinos are guaranteed access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.
This lofty ambition, however, should be supported by sufficient funds to sustain the reforms introduced by the UHC law, which is the rationale for annual and incremental increases on the premiums and “to espouse a spirit of social solidarity so that those who have less in life should have more in law,” she said.
PhilHealth President Dante Gierran supported the deferment on the condition that the subsequent scheduled increases in the premium contributions shall be adjusted to fall on the years following the lifting of the suspension and that the implementation of comprehensive outpatient benefits would also be deferred during the period that there is no corresponding premium increase being implemented.
Under the UHC law, those who have a monthly basic salary of PHP10,000 and below will have a fixed contribution of PHP350 a month starting January 2021. Those earning PHP10,000.01 to PHP69,999.99 have a monthly premium of PHP350 to PHP2,449.99, while those earning PHP70,000 and higher per month will pay a fixed rate of PHP2,450 monthly.