Government decision on PhilHealth premium hike out soon

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Government decision on PhilHealth premium hike out soon
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

MANILA, Philippines —  The government will come out with a decision on whether or not to push through with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth)’s premium contribution rate increase “very soon,” President Marcos said yesterday.

A cost-benefit analysis is still being conducted to ensure that the five-percent increase in contribution will also provide additional benefits to all members, according to Marcos.

“It’s under review. What we are trying to determine is that if we are going to increase the contribution from four percent to five percent, how do we benefit from that? It’s really a cost-benefit analysis,” he said before leaving for Canberra, Australia.

“We’re still under study, but we’ll come to a conclusion very, very soon,” he added.

The President noted that the state insurer has expanded its benefits over the years, including the increase in dialysis support to three times a week for outpatients or equivalent to full weekly coverage.

He also mentioned the increase in PhilHealth’s coverage for “Case Z conditions” such as cancer.

“So, if there are benefits, if we can justify the increase, then we’ll do it, but if not, we won’t. It’s that simple. It’s just a very straightforward cost-benefit analysis,” he said.

Republic Act 1123 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act mandates the PhilHealth contribution rate to be raised by 0.5 percent annually beginning in 2021 and continuing until it reaches five percent from 2024 to 2025.

The state insurer suspended the increase in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Marcos ordered the deferral of 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 president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. recently said the hike to five percent in premium contributions would be sustained, as the Office of the President expressed through a letter that “they pose no objection” to the increase.

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

The premium rate increase will affect individuals whose salaries range from P10,000 to P100,000, according to PhilHealth.

Individuals earning P10,000 will 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.

PhilHealth is expecting an additional P17 billion in revenues from the increased premium rates.

Marcos will be in Canberra from Feb. 28 to 29 upon the invitation of Canberra Governor General David Hurley.

Marcos is scheduled to deliver an address before the Australian parliament on Feb. 29 and return to Manila on the same day.

Delay until 2025

In a related development, three business groups are urging the government to delay until next year the implementation of an increase in contributions to PhilHealth to help vulnerable micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and Filipino workers who are challenged by the premium hike.

In a letter to Marcos dated Feb. 26, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. expressed support for the suspension of the increase for this year.

“With utmost respect, we unanimously support Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa’s call, who also serves as the chairperson of the agency (PhilHealth), to suspend the five-percent premium increase in 2024,” the groups said.

They cited statements by Herbosa noting that the proposed action would not significantly impact PhilHealth’s financial standing, considering that the agency has sufficient funds to continue providing benefits and services to its members.

“Notably, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. has affirmed this claim, stating that even if the said proposal is implemented, PhilHealth’s fund will not be depleted,” the business groups said.–  Catherine Talavera

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