Suspending Philhealth premium hike ‘necessary,’ lawmaker urged

The front counter of PhilHealth. (Source: Coconuts Manila)
The front counter of PhilHealth. (Source: Coconuts Manila)

Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas called to stall Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) upcoming premium hike in a statement Sunday (May 15).

According to the House Assistant Minority Leader, “the deferment of the higher PhilHealth premium is even more necessary at this point amid the successive rounds of price hikes since January, and the still unresolved controversies in the state insurer." One of these “controversies” included the P15 billion allegedly stolen by a “mafia” within PhilHealth, with the case first reported last 2020.

Beginning in 2019, premium rates for Direct Contributors were expected to steadily increase. This was a part of a plan detailed under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law that aimed to raise the rate to 5% of their basic monthly salary by 2025.

This June, the rate will be at 4%, which means that contributors will have to pay around P400 to P3,200 of their monthly salary to the state health insurer. PhilHealth also advised members and employers who have already paid at the 3% rate “to generate the corresponding Statement of Premium Account for the paid periods so they can settle the 1% differential payments/remittances until December 31, 2022.”

The premium rate was originally slated to be increased to 3.5% last January 2021. Outgoing Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, however, ordered it to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brosas worried that it would not be as easy as it seemed, saying "nasa P400 hanggang P3,200 ang bagong kaltas sa sahod niyan, at lalamunin lang nito ang dagdag sahod na P33 kada araw sa NCR [National Capital Region]. Dagdag pahirap agad ang hatid sa mamamayan pagkatapos ng eleksyon, malupit ito,” Brosas worried.

(Contributors will now lose around P400 to P3,200 due to the hike, and this will swallow the added wage of P33 a day in NCR. This change only burdens the people more after the elections. This is just cruel.)

Brosas referred to the recent P33 wage hike in Metro Manila. This, along with the P55 to P110 increase in Western Visayas, were announced by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on May 14.

In a separate statement, Vice President for Corporate Affairs Shirley Domingo, M.D. assured that PhilHealth “will continue to provide all Filipinos with adequate financial protection against hospitalization costs.”

While the price hike will not affect coverage for COVID-19 packages and additional hemodialysis trials, it will “support the increase/expansion” of medical consultations and laboratory tests, as well as hemodialysis extensions to 144 sessions, mental health packages, and financial support for healthcare workers.

Despite the seeming good news for workers, contributors have to keep up with PhilHealth’s rate hike and COVID-related expenses, but also the economic consequences of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Due to the rapid increase in oil prices, Anakpawis Party-list Vice President Lana Linaban earlier said that prices for fruits, vegetables, and other commodities would rise as well.

She blamed the Oil Deregulation Law, which restricted the national government from having a hand in oil prices and sales, for making the problems worse. According to her “ang mga antas ng pagtaas ng presyo ng produktong langis ngayon ay lalo pang magtutulak sa mas malalang pagkakabaon sa utang, kahirapan, at kagutuman.”

(The rate of oil price hikes now will only lead to an increase in loans, and cases of poverty and hunger.)

In light of these roadblocks, Brosas assured that she will push to amend the UHC Law “in the next Congress to remove the automatic premium hikes.”

“Phil[H]ealth contributions are basically income deductions which could have been spent by workers on food and other necessities. Healthcare should be primarily shouldered by the national government, through sufficient state funding in the public health system,” Brosas concluded.

(UPDATE: Comments from excerpts from PhilHealth’s media statement in ninth to tenth paragraphs.)

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes-in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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