MANILA - Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go said he would urge the Senate to either amend the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act or craft a new measure to defer the scheduled increase of premiums for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).
Under Section 10 of the UHC law, the state health insurer's monthly rates will rise to 3.5 percent this year from 3 percent in 2020, raising minimum contributions to P350 from the current P300.
"One option is to propose an amendatory bill that will specifically address the specific provision in the UHC law mandating the said increase," Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, said in a statement on Sunday.
"Another option is to include a provision in the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill that would allow moving statutory deadlines and timelines for payments required by law such as, but not limited, to increase and payment of PhilHealth premiums," he said, referring to the Philippines' proposed third COVID-19 aid package.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed Go's suggestion, saying the chamber can work to expedite the passage of the measure.
"Eh di fastbreak namin (We can do it on fastbreak)," Sotto told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to delay the contribution rate hike during the pandemic, said Go, who previously worked as the chief executive's close aide before being elected to the Senate.
"Sinabi niya na kung may maipapasang batas ang lehislatibo na naglalayong ipatupad ang deferment, o kung may kailangang aprubahan na dagdag na pondo mula gobyerno para hindi maantala ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth, pipirmahan niya ito pagkatapos mapag-aralan nang mabuti," Go said.
(If the legislature can pass a law that seeks to defer the rate hike, or pass a measure to approve additional funding to ensure that PhilHealth services won't be hampered, the President said he is willing to sign it after thoroughly studying them.)
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said he is also willing to study if his department can cover the funds needed to ensure that PhilHealth operations would not be impeded by the proposed delay of the contribution rate hike, Go said.
"The government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the UHC law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered," the senator said.
The rate adjustment is expected to yield "close to P90 billion" in 2021 alone, according to data from PhilHealth.
The scheduled rate hike drew ire on social media as Filipinos underscored that the state health insurer should not be allowed to manage a bigger fund as it has been mired in various corruption controversies in recent years.