Lawmaker: Public should be given 6-month reprieve from PhilHealth contribution hike

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 3) — A member of the House of Representatives has proposed a six-month reprieve for the public from paying the higher premiums set by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation this year, saying the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic would make it difficult for most Filipinos to shell out larger contributions.

"We are in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Even private preneed companies are declaring a 'fortuitous event' to justify delays in the payment of their contractual obligations to thousands of planholders," Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Michael Defensor said on Sunday.

The state health insurer released a statement last week explaining the increase was to "ensure sufficient funding for the health care of its 110 million members as mandated by Republic Act No. 11223, or the Universal Health Care Law."

The premium rate will be increased to 3.5% of monthly income from the current 3%.

Defensor, who is vice chairman of the House committee on health, said delaying the payment of higher premiums would not negatively affect PhilHealth.

"Our rough estimate is that PhilHealth will be postponing less than ₱500 million worth of incremental premiums on an annual basis from direct contributors... The ₱500 million is a drop in the bucket for PhilHealth. However, if the money is taken from the pockets of salaried employees, especially minimum wage earners, it will add to their financial hardship," he said.

Defensor also said Congress could pass a joint resolution asking for the six-month deferment, should it be needed.

Defensor is the latest lawmaker to speak up against the hike in contributions.

"Kapal ng mukha ng PhilHealth magtaas ng premium! Managot kaya muna sila sa bilyon-bilyong reserve fund na nawawala bago magdagdag-singil. Saan na naman mapupunta yang pera?" Senator Imee Marcos said in a statement last week.

[Translation: How can PhilHealth have the audacity to raise premiums! They should be first held liable for the billions of reserve fund that was lost before they increase their collections. Where will the money go this time?]

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan also said the higher contributions are ill-timed as more people have been rendered hungry and jobless by the pandemic.

However, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III backed the increase.

"Under the Universal Health Care law, the scheduled minimal increases in the contribution rate are needed to ensure the long- term actuarial sustainability of the system," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told CNN Philippines' The Source, referring to the state health insurance firm's capacity to meet future financial obligations in relation to revenues and risks it faces.

Starting January 1, those who have a monthly basic salary of P10,000 and below shall have a fixed contribution of P350 a month. Those earning ₱70,000 and higher per month will pay a fixed rate of ₱2,450 monthly. <<>>