A measure has been filed in the Senate seeking to grant the president of the Philippines the power to suspend PhilHealth contribution hikes to help ease the burden of Filipinos during critical times.
Sen. Grace Poe's bill provides that in the event of a state of national emergency, of public health emergency, or of national calamity, the president may suspend the increase of PhilHealth premium contributions upon the recommendation of the state health insurer's board and after 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 in a statement.
PhilHealth recently announced that starting June, its contribution rate would increase to 4% from the previous 3% as provided in the Universal Health Care Act. Under the law, the premium rate should increase by 0.5% yearly starting from 3% in 2020 until it reaches 5%.
The contribution hike is retroactive from January, which means that on top of the increased contributions, PhilHealth members would also have to pay an additional premium of 1% from January to May.
Poe said the hike came at a time when Filipinos continue to grapple with the impact of the pandemic and rising prices of fuel and basic goods.
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"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," she said.
While the goals of the UHC law and the National Health Insurance Program are desirable, the increase is "ill-timed," the senator said.
"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.
"Any untimely increase can dim the hope and dent the ability of our countrymen to survive at this challenging time. We must look after them with concern and compassion," she added.
Poe hopes that her proposal would be given due attention to suspend the contribution hike that PhilHealth had recently implemented.