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Proposals to defer PhilHealth, SSS premium hike OKâd
Both the health and the government enterprises and privatization committees gave their stamp of approval to House Bills 8316 and 8317 allowing Duterte to suspend the implementation of scheduled increases in the premium rates of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and Social Security System.
STAR/File

Proposals to defer PhilHealth, SSS premium hike OK’d

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Two committees of the House of Representatives have separately approved yesterday the bills Speaker Lord Allan Velasco filed to grant President Duterte the powers to suspend increases in the monthly contribution of premiums in two government financial institutions.

Both the health and the government enterprises and privatization committees gave their stamp of approval to House Bills 8316 and 8317 allowing Duterte to suspend the implementation of scheduled increases in the premium rates of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Social Security System (SSS).

“We thank our colleagues for recognizing that urgent actions such as postponing PhilHealth and SSS contribution hikes are necessary to provide much-needed relief to our kababayans as the country continues in its fight against COVID-19,” Velasco said.

The bills allow the Chief Executive, in consultation with the secretaries of the Department of Health and the Department of Finance as chairpersons of the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and SSS to hold such collections in abeyance during “national emergencies.”

But SSS president and chief executive officer Aurora Ignacio warned that deferring the increase in the contribution rate would put a squeeze on the state pension fund’s cash flow, resulting in a potential deficit of P14.9 billion this year.

Citing the studies done by the SSS, Ignacio said the proposal would cut the state fund’s contribution collection by P41.37 billion this year. Against the backdrop of an increasing availment of benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic, this would result in a deficit in the SSS’ cash flows to P14.9 billion.

She also pointed out that deferring the hike would increase the SSS’ unfunded liabilities, which already hit P9.46 trillion as of Jan. 1, 2021. But if the increases in the premium will be allowed, it would enable the state pension fund to extend P41 billion in benefits and loans to 3.3 million members.

“At this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when members and pensioners have clamored for heightened benefits, including allowable loans, we would expect that proposed measures should clearly strengthen the SSS, not weaken it financially,” Ignacio said.

On the other hand, PhilHealth president Dante Gierran supported the deferment on condition that the subsequent scheduled increases in the premium contributions shall be adjusted to fall on the years following the lifting of suspension.

Quezon Rep. Helen Tan, chairperson of the health panel, supported the suspension to provide PhilHealth contributors immediate relief amid the hard times brought about by the pandemic. – Mary Grace Padin, Michelle Zoleta

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