Sat. Jul 31st, 2021
(Photo Courtesy: http://www.pna.gov.ph)

The Senate Committee on Health and Demography, chaired by Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, approved on the committee level on March 2, 2021 the proposed measures that seek to defer the scheduled increase on the monthly contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth).

“When the [Universal Health Care Act] was crafted, no one knew that a pandemic would hit us. Although the increase in Philhealth contributions ensures sufficient funding for the health care of its members […] it is only reasonable and equitable to postpone incremental premiums due to the bad economic conditions caused by [the crisis],” said Go.

“The government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the [UHC] law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered,” he emphasized.

The agency’s premium contribution rate is set to climb from 3 percent of the monthly basic salary of a direct contributor in 2020 to 3.5 percent in 2021 as mandated by Republic Act No. 11223 or the UHC Act. Mandatory contributions will be increased annually until 2025 upon reaching 5 percent of the monthly income.

To address the issue, the committee approved the proposed bills that grant the President of the Philippines the authority to suspend any increase in the premium contributions in times of national or public health emergencies.

The measures included Senate Bill Nos. (SBNs) 2000, 1977, 1971 and 1966, which are authored by Senators Go, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon and Imee Marcos, respectively. The committee also approved SBN 1968 which is principally authored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva, and co-authored by Senators Sonny Angara, Maria Lourdes Binay, and William Gatchalian.

The committee likewise took into consideration SBN 1975, a bill authored by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., which provides for the suspension of any premium contribution hikes during a state of emergency or calamities by amending the UHC Act.

Following the approval, a Committee Report will be prepared by the Health Committee so that the bills may be taken up in the plenary.

According to Philhealth, the deferment will result in a P17.5-billion net loss and the scaling down of its Konsulta package in 2021. Philhealth officials assured that the loss will be covered by its reserve funds, bringing the latter down from P160.58 billion to P143.51 billion.

To better assess the financial status of the agency, the Senator asked Philhealth chief Dante Gierran during the hearing for an update on the agency’s efforts to recover the funds allegedly stolen through fraudulent schemes.

Gierran reported that 95 percent of the P14.9 billion advance payments made to hospitals and other health facilities through the interim reimbursement mechanism had already been liquidated. The state insurance agency is expected to complete the liquidation process by the end of March.

Go welcomed the developments as he also dispelled any concern about the possible dissolution of the agency.

In addition to the above bills, the committee also discussed during the same hearing SBN 1792, 1747 and 1642, measures authored by Senators Francis Tolentino, Angara and Marcos which institute policies for the “new normal” and provide for new programs from health care modernization, public transportation, creation of jobs to the promotion of public spaces, among others.

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