MANILA - Former Senator JV Ejercito on Tuesday said he will support any amendments to the Universal Health Care law to adapt to the pandemic brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“I still stand by this law. I know this is a giant leap forward towards our goal of having a genuine universal health care law that will really give good quality health care to all Filipinos without financial cost,” said Ejercito during the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on the UHC law.
The UHC was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in February last year. The measure ensures all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health goods and services and protection against financial risks. It automatically enrolls all Filipinos to the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).
As principal sponsor in the Senate, Ejercito said they did not anticipate that the COVID-19 pandemic would strike during the landmark law’s first year of implementation.
“This pandemic is an opportunity for us to probably consider amending the measure considering the situation that we are in right now. Pagkakataon na baguhin natin, mag adjust tayo, adapt to the situation,” he said.
Ejercito raised some proposals to the law including the repeat of interest of missed contributions with respect to self-earning professional practitioners and migrant workers. He added premium contributions of migrant workers and self-earning individuals should be based on the income floor of P10,000.
“So kahit 3 percent, ang income base natin will be P10,000. Ang monthly rate ng OFWs natin magiging P300 a month at aabot ng P500 by 2026 pa. Pero P300 monthly po at ang base nila P10,000 hindi na tataas,” he said.
He also proposes that distressed repatriated migrant workers shall not be required to pay missed PhilHealth contributions. Also, failure to pay PhilHealth contributions shall not be a ground for non-issuance of the overseas employment contract or OEC.
He added that no premium rate increases shall be implemented for 2021 and 2022 during the economic recovery, and that the proposed amended rate is almost similar to the rate of UHC bill version passed by the Senate prior to the Bicam.
“It was justified by PhilHealth na yung primary health care tapos yung pag-increase ng benefits and that’s what convinced the Bicam na baguhin yung rate. But now were in a pandemic, our OFWs are suffering anxiety, uncertainty hindi natin alam kung makakabalik sila so I am open and will support any proposals that will make lives easier for them. Dapat nating balansehin ang ating amendment lalong-lalo na sa ating kababayan and OFWs,” he said.
OFWs with an income of P10,000 to P60,000 are required to pay 3 percent of their monthly salary starting 2020, up from 2.75 percent the previous year, according to a memo circular that took effect last April 22. The monthly premium will increase by 0.5 percent every year afterwards until it reaches 5 percent in 2024, it added.
The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) is also calling for the suspension or amendment of Chapter 3, Section 10 of the Republic Act 1122 to reduce the burden of both employees and employers especially during this pandemic.
“Suspend premium contributions until December 2021 to give time for the health sector to go back to almost normal earning capacity. We’re asking on behalf of not only the doctors, but all employees as well as employers, self-paying individuals, and all gainfully employed citizens of our country,” said PMA president Dr. Jose Santiago.
Santiago said their group is also proposing to revert back to old system where “we pay the premium contributions, original pre-UHC rates which is P3,600 per year or P10,500 for the renewal period of 3 years.”