Voting 273 against three and zero abstentions, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill giving the President the power to suspend the increase in premiums of “direct contributors” of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) members.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the principal author of House Bill (HB) No. 6772, said the suspension of the increase would result in some savings for millions of government and private sector workers, professionals, self-employed, and other Philhealth contributors who are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Romualdez said daily wage earners and many employees, who comprise the majority of Philhealth members, would save at least P50 a month or P600 a year from their health insurance premium payment if the adjustment were suspended.
Those earning more will naturally save more, the veteran legislator said.
“Suspending the imposition of the new Philhealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief during national emergencies or calamities.”
“Suspending the imposition of the new Philhealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief during national emergencies or calamities and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments in this difficult time,” the Speaker and his co-authors said in filing the bill.
Under Republic Act No. 11223, otherwise known as the Universal Health Care Act, contributions will increase from 4 percent last year to 4.5 percent this year, or from the minimum monthly premium of P400 to P450.
The rate will further go up to 5 percent starting next year.
The Romualdez bill would amend RA 11223, which was enacted in 2018.
The Speaker’s co-authors are Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe, Senior Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Representative Sandro Marcos, and Representatives Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre of party-list group Tingog Sinirangan.
Their proposed amendment states: “The President of the Philippines may, upon recommendation of the Philhealth board, suspend and adjust the period of implementation of the scheduled increase of premium rates during national emergencies or calamities, or when public interest so requires.”
The amendment would be a new paragraph under Section 10 of the law.
In filing Bill No. 6772, the Speaker and his four co-authors cited the objective of the Universal Health Care Act itself, which is to “ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.”
“The intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized. Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, high quality, and responsive to the requirements of all citizens,” they said.
Based on Philhealth’s computation for this year, they said those earning P10,000 and below would pay a premium of P450, those with an income of more than P10,000 up to P89,999.99 would contribute P450 to P4,050, while those making P90,000 or more would chip in P4,050.
“Imposing a higher premium on Filipinos in these current conditions where most of them are grappling with the pandemic will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members.”
“While Philhealth only aims to fulfill and remain faithful to its mandate, imposing a higher premium on Filipinos in these current conditions where most of them are grappling with the pandemic will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” they added.
They pointed out that the nation has barely recovered from losses and difficulties caused by the pandemic, as many businesses have not yet reopened and many people remain jobless.
Romualdez and his colleagues stressed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself has supported calls to defer this year’s increase in Philhealth premiums.
RA 11223 defines “direct contributors” as “those who have the capacity to pay premiums, are gainfully employed and are bound by an employer-employee relationship, or are self-earning, professional practitioners, migrant workers, including their qualified dependents, and lifetime members.”
The term “indirect contributors” refers to “all others not included as direct contributors, as well as their qualified dependents, whose premium shall be subsidized by the national government including those who are subsidized as a result of special laws.”