The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) contribution hike is untimely as Filipinos are still grappling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic while prices of basic needs are rising, Senator Grace Poe said on Monday.

Poe has filed a bill seeking power for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend the PhilHealth premium hike.

“Right now, we must heed their distress call for food to feed their families and jobs to help them get by, with the least burden and utmost support from government,” Poe said in a statement.

The increase is in accordance with Republic Act (RA) No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act.

In January 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte directed PhilHealth to defer the hike amid the health crisis.

In the event of a state of national emergency, public health emergency, or state of national calamity, the bill will allow the President to suspend the increase in premium contributions upon the recommendation of the PhilHealth board and consultation with stakeholders.

“By giving the President the power and authority to suspend such increases in times of need, we are also providing our countrymen a critical lifeline,” Poe said.

Last month, Senator JV Ejercito said he would recommend the suspension of PhilHealth’s scheduled premium increase to President Marcos.

Ejercito said it is inappropriate to impose on workers any premium increase in times of crisis.

“Normal ang sitwasyon noon. Napakaganda ng takbo ng ekonomiya. Hindi lang ng Pilipinas, ng buong mundo kaya ang mga computation po niyan ay based doon sa sitwasyon ng panahon na ‘yun (The situation was normal then. The economy was doing good in the Philippines, in the world, that’s why the computations were based on the situation at the time),” he said in an interview.

The PhilHealth advisory in May stated that as prescribed in Section 10 of RA 11223, and in accordance with PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0005 on the Premium Contribution Schedule in the National Health Insurance Program, all direct contributors will now have a premium rate of 4 percent, with an income floor of PHP10,000 and income ceiling of PHP80,000.

The adjusted premium rate should have taken effect in the Electronic Premium Remittance System and the PhilHealth Member Portal starting June.

Members and employers who have already paid their contributions at 3 percent are advised to generate the corresponding statement of premium account for the paid periods so they can settle the 1 percent differential payments/remittances until December 31.

Poe said while the goals of the UHC Act and the National Health Insurance Program are desirable, the increase is ill-timed.

“The country is still recovering from the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, and our people are trying to adjust to the new normal. Some have just gotten back to work or re-opened their businesses while still struggling to make ends meet and pay off debts,” Poe said. (PNA)

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