MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday said the payment of new PhilHealth premium contributions mandated under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act will have to wait until the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has been resolved.

In his opening statement before the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on RA 11223, Go noted that most people, especially individually paying members like overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), cannot afford to pay the premium at this time when the whole world is in crisis.

“Mag-focus muna tayo ngayon kung paano matulungan ang mga kababayan nating nangangailangan dahil sa Covid-19 crisis. Sa panahon ngayon, kailangan nating isaalang-alang muna ang pangangailangan nila bago natin palaguin ang pondo para sa Universal Health Care Law,” the co-chair of the joint congressional panel said.

(Let us focus for now on how we can help our countrymen who are in need due to Covid-19. At this time, we must prioritize their needs first before we think of increasing the funds for the UHC law.)

“Lalo na ngayon na nasa health emergency ang bansa at nawawalan ng kakayahan ang mga Pilipinong magbigay ng dagdag na kontribusyon dahil sa krisis. Sabi nga nila, (Especially now that the country is under a health emergency and Filipinos are losing their ability to pay additional contributions due to the crisis. As they say) in this time of crisis, every single peso counts,” Go added.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography pointed out that it is for this reason that President Rodrigo Duterte has deemed it best to make PhilHealth contributions voluntary for migrant workers for the time being.

On the other hand, Go reminded PhilHealth to ensure that the funds entrusted to it are “safely guarded and free from dubious schemes and corruption.”

“This Oversight Committee will continuously monitor the implementation of the UHC Act to ensure the prudent use of PhilHealth funds and guarantee that every Filipino family gets appropriate, affordable, and quality health services while being protected from financial burden due to sickness,” he said.

Go issued the statements as the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee began tackling updates and plans for the implementation of RA 11223, which was passed into law on Feb. 20, 2019.

The panel will also study if there is a need to amend some provisions of the law in consideration of the concerns raised by some sectors.

Among these are the provisions on the implementation of the new PhilHealth premium contribution schedule, and requiring the payment of PhilHealth fees prior to the issuance of an overseas employment certificate for OFWs, among others. (PNA)

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