PhilHealth suspends premium rate hike

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    BY GERARD NAVAL and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) yesterday announced the suspension of its scheduled increase in the contribution of members, hours after President Duterte directed the state insurer to put the plan on hold to cushion the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

    PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran said the increase to 3.5 percent from 3 percent in contribution rate will be withheld until further notice.

    An annual increase of 0.5 percent in contributions from 2021 to 2025 is mandated under the Universal Health Care Act.

    The President, in a Monday night address, said government would just find other fund sources to cover the amount expected from the increased contributions.

    “At this time of our life, may I just suggest to the PhilHealth chairman, si Dante Gierran… Huwag muna ngayon (At this time of our life, may I just suggest to the PhilHealth chairman, Dante Gierran…not now),” Duterte said.

    “No increase in contributions. I will look for the money to fill it up… Anyway, that is the job of the government to make it easy for everybody at this time, I said, of our lives,” he added.

    Gierran, in a statement, said PhilHealth “will still collect premiums from direct contributors using the 3 percent, instead of the 3.5 percent contributions rate; and the P60,000, instead of the P70,000 ceiling in CY 2020.”

    This means those earning P10,000 and less a month will still pay P300 per month, while those earning at least P60,000 will pay P1,800 a month.

    On the other hand, those with salaries of P10,000.01 to P59,999.99 a month shall have their monthly premium computed at 3 percent

    Earlier, PhilHealth announced the scheduled mandatory increase in premium rates computed at 3.5 percent effective this month.

    This would have meant that all direct contributors who are earning below P10,000 shall have their premium rate fixed at P350/month while those earning P70,000/month or higher would have their rates fixed at P2,450/month. Those earning P10,000.01 to P69,999.99, meanwhile, would have had their monthly premium rate computed at 3.5 percent.

    Gierran said the suspension of the increase is part of the agency’s effort to ease the burden of the public amid the pandemic.

    “Cognizant of the current fortuitous situation that ravaged so many lives and derailed the economy, PhilHealth will do its part in alleviating the lives of Filipinos, especially insofar as their health is concerned,” said Gierran.

    He said the decision is also in accordance with the President’s directive.

    Gierran said the suspension will be in effect until congressional action is undertaken amending the mandatory increase provided under the Universal Health Care Act of 2019.

    “This interim arrangement will be good until Congress is able to pass a new law allowing the deferment of the scheduled premium adjustment,” he said.

    Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, along with Senators Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Juan Edgardo Angara, have filed Senate Bill 1968 seeking to amend the Universal Health Care Act (UHC Act) to suspend the scheduled increase in contributions.

    “The PhilHealth premium increase is just not timely… And we have to understand why people would rather hold on to their hard-earned money than hand it over to PhilHealth, given PhilHealth’s history,” Zubiri said, referring to allegations of massive corruption in the agency.

    At the House, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco welcomed President Duterte’s move suspend the increase and said the House is ready to review the Universal Health Care Act.

    Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said at least 30 lawmakers have so far signified their support for a resolution calling for PhilHealth to defer the collection of higher contributions this year.

    Social Security System (SSS) president and chief executive officer Aurora Ignacio said the agency will postpone its rate hike if a law is passed or if is ordered by Malacañang to do so.

    In the “Laging Handa” public briefing, Ignacio said the increased contribution is needed to ensure continued and bigger financial benefits for members.

    The monthly SSS contribution was increased to 13 percent from 12 percent starting this month to offset the impact of the P1,000 pension increase granted in 2017, secure the long-term viability of the pension fund, and expand coverage and benefits for members and their beneficiaries as provided for under Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act (SSA) of 2018. – With Raymond Africa and Wendell Vigilia