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Philhealth asked to defer hike in members’ contributions

Mike Defensor
Rep. Mike Defensor

ANAKALUSUGAN party-list Rep. Mike Defensor on Saturday urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) to defer the increase in premium contributions of its members amid the raging public health crisis.

“Millions of contributors are daily wage-earners and other workers reeling from the [coronavirus disease-19) COVID-19 pandemic, like most of our people. Philhealth should not add to their financial burden at this time,” Defensor said.

Defensor conceded that under Republic Act (RA) No. 11223, or the Universal Health Care Law, workers’ monthly insurance premium paid to the state insurer is set to go up from three percent to 3.5 percent this year.

“My appeal to Philhealth is to defer or delay the increase by at least six months to give time for Congress to pass an amendatory bill and other measures reforming the agency to make it more efficient and effective, and to lessen corruption, which results in billions in financial losses every year,” he said.

Defensor added that if the legislature fails to approve remedial legislation, the state insurer could effect the adjustment later this year and still be compliant with the law.

He said that even if the increase is delayed, Philhealth will not run out of funds because it will receive a budgetary subsidy of P71 billion this year from taxpayers.

It can also use its earnings from its investments, he added.

Additionally, Defensor pointed out that the insurer’s new leadership should recover illegal COVID-19-related advances to private hospitals amounting to more than P15 billion, including P1.5 billion to health facilities with fraud cases.

“In fact, they should recover those advances first before effecting any premium increase,” he said.

In October, when he was chairman of the committee on public accounts, Defensor, together with Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, who then headed the good government committee, had filed Bill 7832, which seeks to overhaul Philhealth.

The two panels had endorsed the approval of the measure, which is now pending with the committee on health.

The bill is titled, “An Act prescribing urgent related measures necessary and proper to address the problems and concerns affecting the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.”

It was filed after the public accounts and good government committees investigated corruption issues hounding the state insurer, including billions advanced to private hospitals as payment for COVID-19 cases and annual overpayments the Commission on Audit had estimated at more than P100 billion.

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, Rep. Crispin Remula of Cavite, Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Damariñas City in Cavite are co-authors of the proposed Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Crisis Act of 2020.

Defensor has authored proposed law, House Bill (HB) No. 7424, which seeks reduced premium contribution rates for millions of overseas Filipino workers.