MANILA - Labor groups urged the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday to stop the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from collecting increases in members' contributions.
In a 22-page petition for certiorari, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno, represented by their officers, asked the high court to nullify three PhilHealth circulars that authorized the increases.
The groups claimed the increases are "unnecessary" and "unduly oppressive" of PhilHealth's members.
Petitioners claimed that the circulars, numbered 0027s-2013 (dated Sept. 20, 2013), 0025s-2013 (dated Sept. 28, 2013), and 0024s-2013 (dated Sept 30, 2013), are null and void for failing to comply with a "reasonable, equitable and progressive contribution schedule," and for being handed down minus a thorough study.
Circular No. 0027s-2013 provides for a new contribution rate for those in the employed sector, with P200 as minimum; the prior minimum rate for this sector was P175 for members with a salary range of P7,999 and below.
Circular No. 0025s-2013 increased the annual contributions for land-based overseas contract workers to P2,400 starting Jan. 1 this year, from P1,200 in 2013.
Circular No. 0024s-2013 increased to P2,400 the annual contributions for individually paying members with a monthly income of P25,000 and below beginning Jan 1 this year, from P1,800 in 2013.
Petitioners lamented how "those with lower salaries have their PhilHealth contributions increased while those with higher salaries maintain their contribution rates."
"Surely, there is no equity in such a scheme... there is no way that such a scheme would be equitable and progressive," the petition read.
Petitioners also slammed PhilHealth's pronouncement that the contribution hike will entitle members to in-patient hospital care, out-patience coverage, among other benefits under the National Health Insurance Program; petitioners said that these may still be provided by PhilHealth without hiking members' contributions.
"After all the Commission on Audit has reported that last 2012, PhilHealth awarded some P1.5 billion in bonuses and allowances to its top officials and employees.'
"This only shows that if only respondent PhilHealth would only use its funds judiciously and would be less capricious in spending its funds, the need for contribution hikes from its members would be obviated," the petition read.
HEFTY BONUSES AND ALLOWANCES
Petitioners cited COA reports that enumerated the following bonuses and allowances reportedly given by PhilHealth to its officials and employees: Productivity Incentive Allowance amounting to P272.006 million; Anniversary Bonus amounting to P33.4 million; a Christmas package of P2.34 million; Representation Expenses amounting to P32.5 million; Birthday Bonuses amounting to P39 million; and Corporate Transition and Achievement Premium of P104.4 million.
"Worse, it has also been reported that PhilHealth extended hefty bonuses to its contractors. It hired contractors and gave them a total of P6,506,863 as bonuses and gifts like project completion benefits, Christmas package, and special events gifts," the petition read.
Petitioners said these bonuses and allowances only come to show that PhilHealth has enough funds to provide sufficient benefits to its members without resorting to contribution increases.
Petitioners said that an increase in contributions would mean a reduction in workers' take-home pay, which subsequently impacts on the quality of life of their families.
They urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) while the petition is pending before the high court, to prevent PhilHealth from collecting the assailed contribution hikes.
President Aquino is also named a respondent in the case, along with PhilHealth.