MANILA - Several senators have filed bills seeking to suspend the Philippine Health Insurance Corp's (PhilHealth) scheduled premium contribution increase, citing the public's financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Imee Marcos' Senate Bill No. 1966 seeks to delay the scheduled rate increase by a year, while Sen. Richard Gordon's Senate Bill No. 1971 grants the President the power to suspend premium rate hikes during national emergencies or states of calamity.
Senators Grace Poe, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay and Sherwin Gatchalian also filed Senate Bill No. 1968 seeking to postpone the scheduled rate hikes "to the year after any given public health emergency."
"It’s simply inhumane to apply an increase in contributions for health care services when we are right in the middle of a health crisis," Poe said in a statement.
"Especially since there are many irregularities that PhilHealth hasn’t answered for yet," she said.
Zubiri said the government needs to "understand why people would rather hold on to their hard-earned money than hand it over to PhilHealth."
Over the years, the state insurance firm has been mired in various corruption scandals, including the disbursement of COVID-19 funds for non-coronavirus patients, paying for the dialysis of dead patients, and buying allegedly overpriced equipment of its offices.
"We really have to resolve that first, and make sure that going forward, lahat ng contributions ay magagamit talaga ng taumbayan," Zubiri said.
Gordon said PhilHealth could survive even without the rate adjustment.
"They have sustenance from Congress of about P71 billion," he said.
"Tuyong-tuyo na ang mga tao. Very few people are working regularly... naaapektuhan 'yung service ng PhilHealth because of corruption," he said.
(People have run dry. Very few people are working regularly... the service of PhilHealth was affected because of corruption.)
Under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, PhilHealth's premium contribution rate shall be increased to 3.5 percent this year to accommodate broader health services provided under the law.
President Rodrigo Duterte has deferred PhilHealth's rate hike this year, but Marcos said she hopes the chief executive would also certify the bills as urgent.
"Good intentions need to be backed up by an amendment to the law," Marcos said in a statement.
"Give us reason to believe in PhilHealth first, before increasing premiums yet again!" she said.
Senate Health Committee chair Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go urged both chambers of Congress to expedite the passage of the bill.
"It is the job of the government to make it easy for everybody at this time," he said.