Leaders of the House of Representatives, headed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, have filed an urgent bill seeking to empower President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend the increase in premiums of “direct contributors” of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., including its employees.
Romualdez said daily wage earners and many employees, who comprise the majority of PhilHealth members, could save P50 a month or P600 a year from their health insurance premium payment if the adjustment would be suspended.
“Those earning more will naturally save more,” he added.
Authors of House Bill No. 6772 noted that the suspension of the adjustment would remove an added financial burden on millions of government and private sector workers, professionals, self-employed, and other PhilHealth contributors who are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, contributions would go up this year from 4 percent to 4.5 percent, or from the minimum monthly premium of P400 to P450. The rate shall further increase to 5 percent starting in 2025.
Aside from Romualdez, other co-authors of the bill that seeks to amend the Universal Health Care Act were Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe of Zamboanga City, Senior Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander Marcos of Ilocos Norte, and Tingog party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.
“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 bill said.
If the bill is passed into law, the proposed provision would be a new paragraph under Section 10 of the UHC Act.
“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,” the bill further stated.
Counterpart measures have been filed in the Senate by Senators Grace Poe and JV Ejercito.
President Marcos earlier suspended the adjustment for premium rate and income ceiling from P80,000 to P90,000 scheduled for this year to 2024.
PhilHealth spokesman Rey Baleña said the suspension of the adjustmentwould not affect its operations but would have an impact on the new benefits under the UHC.
“It is only the new benefits packages that will have a possible adjustment in deployment, but the current benefits packages will not have any changes,” he said.
Among the new benefit packages to be implemented this year are thesevere acute malnutrition package as well as the outpatient mental health package.
In 2021, Mr. Marcos’ predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, also postponed the increase in PhilHealth member contributions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.