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No suspension of 5 percent hike in PhilHealth contribution

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
No suspension of 5 percent hike in PhilHealth contribution
Individuals continue to avail services as face-to-face operations and transactions continue at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Quezon City on September 26, 2023.
STAR / Michael Varcas

‘Palace did not oppose increase’

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no suspension in the five percent increase in premium contribution to the Philippine Health and Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) after Malacañang gave its approval to continue with its implementation.

At a press briefing yesterday, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Ledesma said a letter sent to PhilHealth by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin days ago noted that Malacañang did not oppose the five percent increase in premium rate that was implemented starting Jan. 1.

“We wrote Malacañang. We were seeking clarification and direction as to the implementation of the increase in contribution. Their reply was, ‘After a very thorough study on the premium contribution increase, we pose no objection on the scheduled increase, which was implemented on Jan. 1,’ ” Ledesma said.

“After a thorough discussion among all parties involved, I think it was agreed upon, and I think this one percent (from four to five percent) increase in premium is not that much compared to the increase in benefits,” he added.

Ledesma stressed: “We are just implementing what is stated in the law. It was suspended last year and this year, members can really feel the benefits, given the increase.”

The state health insurer earlier issued an advisory that the increase for premium contributions already took effect starting Jan. 1, 2024.Under Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act of 2019, the increase in premium rate started in 2020 at three percent and was supposed to be followed by a hike to 3.5 percent in 2021, four percent in 2022, 4.5 percent in 2023 and five percent in 2024.

In 2021, PhilHealth suspended the rate hike of three percent to 3.5 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under review

The PhilHealth’s premium rate increase implemented last month is being closely reviewed by President Marcos to make sure it significantly improves members’ benefits, Malacañang said on Friday.

“The review is still ongoing. The President wants to ensure that any increase in premium will substantially be much more in value in terms of benefits and coverage to PhilHealth members,” Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil told Palace reporters.

Ledesma on Friday said the five-percent increase in premium contributions would be sustained, as the Office of the President expressed through a letter that “they pose no objection” to the increase.

Last month, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa proposed the suspension of the premium rate hike, saying that this would not affect the state insurer’s financial standing.

“It (PhilHealth) will not be hurt by delaying the increase in premium,” Herbosa said at a media forum in January.

Last year, Marcos ordered the deferral of the scheduled hike in the PhilHealth premium rate from four percent to 4.5 percent and income ceiling from P80,000 to P90,000, citing “socioeconomic challenges” and “difficult times.”

PhilHealth earlier said the premium rate increase would affect individuals whose salaries are ranging from P10,000 to P100,000.

Individuals earning P10,000 will now be required to contribute P500 to PhilHealth, while those who earn P10,000.01 to P99,999.99 will face deductions varying from P500 to P5,000.

The state insurer is expecting an additional P17 billion in revenues due to the increased premium rates.

PhilHealth to lose P20 billion

PhilHealth stands to lose around P20 billion if the proposal to suspend premium contributions of minimum wage earners will push through.

“There are 5.78 million minimum wage earners contributing P19.6 billion to PhilHealth. So, the amount that we will not be able to keep is roughly P20 billion,” Ledesma said at a press conference on Friday.

However, Ledesma said that even if this proposal gets implemented, PhilHealth’s fund will not be depleted.

“The agency’s cash position is good, so at the end of the day, our heads will still be above water so we’ll still manage,” he pointed out, adding that they are ready to discuss the issue with lawmakers led by Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.

Quimbo filed a House resolution on Tuesday urging the state health insurer to suspend premium payments from minimum wage earners, employed or self-employed.

The lawmaker sought the suspension pending review of the expansion of PhilHealth member benefits. — Helen Flores

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