After granting financial relief to vulnerable sectors such as the elderly and solo parents, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte wants the government to accord economic succor, too, to “junior citizens” or Filipinos from the time they are born until they reach the age of 12, in the form of their free coverage under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).

In House Bill (HB) 8312, the former Camarines Sur governor and now president of the National Unity Party (NUP), is proposing automatic free coverage of these “junior citizens” under the NHIP of the National Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

“Government support for our young citizens is imperative, especially during their formative years, in order for them to grow up into fully equipped adult citizens.”

In addition to mandatory PhilHealth coverage, “junior citizens” belonging to families with annual incomes of less than P250,000 each are entitled to more benefits, including free medical and dental services and laboratory fees in government health facilities, along with a 20% discount and Value Added Tax (VAT)-exemption on medical plus dental services, and laboratory and professional fees in private hospitals and clinics.

These “junior citizens” from poor and low-income families are also entitled under Villafuerte’s bill to free pediatric vaccinations available at the Department of Health (DOH), and a 20%-discount and VAT-exemption on the purchases by their parents or guardians of their medicines and milk supplements.

The 20% discount and VAT-free privileges of “junior citizens” from low-income families also applies under HB 8312 to the admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert hall, circuses, leisure and amusement; and the funeral and burial services for “junior citizens” who pass away.

“Government support for our young citizens is imperative, especially during their formative years, in order for them to grow up into fully equipped adult citizens,” Villafuerte said in HB 8312. “This is especially important to children from disadvantaged areas, where access to healthcare services is low or limited to private institutions.”

He said, “The Philippines has made great leaps in fulfilling its commitment to the United Nation (UN) Millennium Goal of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.”

The Congress, he said, has done its part in writing laws that have helped in this aspect,  like the “Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Law” of 2000 that established the National Coordinating Council for the Welfare of Children, and the “Barangay Level Total Protection of Children Act” of 1990 that required all local government units (LGUs) to establish day-care centers in all barangays. 

Villafuerte himself co-authored Republic Act (RA) 11148 or the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Magnanay Act,”  which aims  to ensure that babies get the right nutrition in their first 1,000 days of development, which, in turn, will   lead to lower healthcare costs for the country as children benefiting from this proposed law would grow up to become healthier and more productive adults.

The NUP president likewise co-authored RA 11916 or the “Social Pension for Indigent Seniors  Act,” the  amendatory law that lapsed last July 30, 2022 and doubled to P1,000 from P500 the monthly social pension of  more than 4 million indigent elderly Filipinos.

Also, Villafuerte is lead author of RA 118861 or “The Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act” that granted financial relief to single fathers and mothers.   

“Our  country is working in caring for our mothers and their newborns, with the Congress strengthening this intent even more through meaningful legislation,” he said. “The worry, however, is that focus on healthcare is stuck on the first 1,000 days of the child.”

HB 8312 aims to provide mandatory PhilHealth coverage for  “Junior Citizens” or children 0 to 12 years old, and would therefore be automatic members of the NHIP until they reach the age of 12. 

Villafuerte said his bill aims to ease the financial burden of poor or low-income parents as the bill aims to provide these benefits to families whose annual income is below P250,000.

The bill also entitles “Junior Citizens” to benefits such as a 20%-discount and exemption from VAT on goods and services, including medical and dental healthcare services and supplies.

“This benefit given to the Junior Citizens extends to professional fees of physicians in private hospitals and of home healthcare service providers, as well as funeral and burial services in the unfortunate death of the Junior Citizen,” he said. “Admission charges to leisure and amusement sites, such as movie houses and concert halls, are also taken into consideration in this proposed bill.”

The bill defines medical services as hospital services, professional services of physicians and other healthcare professionals and diagnostics and laboratory tests that are necessary for the prevention, diagnosis and/or treatment of an illness or injury.

Dental services refer, meanwhile, to oral examination, cleaning, permanent and temporary filling, extractions and gum treatment, restoration, replacement or repositioning of teeth, or alteration of the alveolar or periodontium process of the maxilla and the mandible that are necessary for the prevention, diagnosis and/or treatment of an illness or injury.

The 20% discount plus VAT exemption is applicable under the bill on the sale of the following goods and services, for the exclusive use  of junior citizens, from all establishments:

·       Purchase of medicines, including the acquisition of vaccines and other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment to be determined by the DOH;

·       Purchase of milk supplements for children aged 4 to 12 years;

·       Professional fees of attending physicians in all private hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient clinics and home healthcare service centers;

·       Professional fees of home healthcare service providers, as endorsed by private hospitals;

·       Medical and dental services, diagnostics and laboratory fees in all private hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient clinics, and home healthcare service centers, in accordance with the rules and regulations to be issued by the DOH, in coordination with PhilHealth;

·       Admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert hall, circuses, leisure and amusement; and

·       Funeral and burial services for the death of “junior citizens.”

Under the bill, the free medical and dental services shall include diagnostics and laboratory fees such as X-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood tests, in all government facilities, subject to the guidelines to be issued by the DOH in coordination with the PhilHealth;

The DOH, through the government hospitals and health centers, shall administer all necessary pediatric vaccinations including but not limited to anti-influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for junior citizen patients for free, according to the bill.

Any of the parents or guardians of the “junior citizen” must secure from the barangay or LGU a Junior Citizen Identification Card (ID) and booklet for him or her to avail of the HB 8312-listed privileges.

In order for a “junior citizen” to be issued the Junior Citizen ID and booklet that he or she needs to present to establishments whenever availing of the privileges, the bill requires any of his or her parents or guardians to present the following documents:

·      An original or certified true copy of the child’s birth certificate issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); and

·      Income Tax Return (ITR) showing that the family’s annual income does not exceed P250,000.

Any person or establishment who refuses to provide the abovementioned privileges or violates any provision of the proposed Act shall suffer the following penalties:

·       For the first violation, a fine of not less than P50,000 but not exceeding P100,000; and 

·       For any subsequent violation, imprisonment of not less than 2 years but not more than 6 years, and a fine of not less than P100,000, but not exceeding P200,000.

If the offender is a corporation, partnership, organization or any similar entity, the officials directly involved such as the president, general manager, managing partner, or such other officer charged with the management of the business affairs, shall be liable for punishment.

If the officer of the said corporation is an alien or a foreigner, he or she shall be deported immediately after service of sentence.

Upon filing of an appropriate complaint against violators, and after due notice and hearing, the bill empowers the proper authorities to cause the cancellation or revocation of the business permit, permit to operate, franchise and other similar privileges granted to any person, establishment or business entity that fails to abide by the provisions of the proposed Act.

Villafuerte earlier appealed to LGU executives to support  the government in its continuing effort to put up an accurate database for an estimated 12.3  million elderly Filipinos nationwide.

He pointed out to local executives that the national listing or cataloguing of our senior citizens is timely and vital at this time when some 4 million elderly Filipinos who are considered as indigent   are eligible to receive higher monthly subsidies of P1,000 each, under a new law on improved social protection for this sector.

He had likewise announced that solo parents may soon avail of the 10% discount and VAT exemption on their purchases of essentials such as baby’s milk, diapers and doctor-prescribed medicines for their  kids 6 years of age and below, as provided under a new law on financial aid for single dads.

Villafuerte said this is because the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) recently issued Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 1-2023 on the implementation of the tax privileges to be  accorded establishments that are to grant the 10%-discount and VAT-exemption to qualified single parents on their purchases of goods for their babies, toddlers and preschoolers that are listed under the law.   

However, he pointed out that this hefty price discount under the law can be availed of only by solo parents earning P250,000 each or below per year. 

This is the same income bracket as those who are exempted from paying income taxes under RA 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, which he had co-authored.



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