House panels OK bills on SSS, PhilHealth rate hikes suspension

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    TWO bills seeking to allow President Duterte to suspend increases in the monthly contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) “in times of national emergencies” hurdled the committee level at the House of Representatives yesterday.

    House Bill 8316 and 8317, both filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, were passed by the committee on health and committee on government enterprises and privatization.

    Senate counterpart bills are pending at the committee level.

    Velasco said suspending the increase in rates will provide a “much-needed relief” from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    SSS president Aurora Ignacio opposed the measure, saying SSS stands to lose as much as P41.37 billion in contributions this year, which “will further exacerbate our already dire financial position.”

    The approved House bills allow the President, in consultation with the secretaries of the health and finance departments, as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, “to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.”

    The bills seek to amend Republic Act 1223 or the Universal Health Care Act and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which provide for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions in PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

    Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve a faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

    Ignacio said the SSS’ own studies show that aside from the projected loss in contributions which increases annually, the state insurer will also suffer a projected deficit of P14.9. billion this year on top of increasing unfunded liabilities “that are already running in trillions of pesos.”

    “We would like to state that the provisions of the bills tend to weaken rather than strengthen the SSS, especially in these difficult times. The SSS therefore respectfully expresses its opposition to the proposals, because of their expected adverse financial impact to the financial health of the SSS and eventually, on the benefits of the pensioners members and their beneficiaries,” he said.

    The health committee, headed by its chair Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan and vice chair Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III, approved HB 8316 on the motion of deputy speaker Rufus Rodriguez.

    HB 8316 got unanimous support from resource persons from the PhilHealth, Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Labor and Employment, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and various labor groups.

    The health panel is also expected to submit its committee report on the approval of HB 8316 to the plenary next week while the committee on government enterprises and privatization will be coming out with a report on the approval of HB 8317 by Monday.

    The Social Security Act of 2018 allowed the Social Security Commission to increase the contribution rate by 1 percentage point every other year starting 2019 until it reaches 15 percent.

    This year, the contribution rate is set to increase to 13 percent from 12 percent.