In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health risk and adverse impacts on the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos, Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go said that the possible deferment of the scheduled increase of the member contributions for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation in 2021 must be considered and studied further.
“While I recognize that this increase is mandated by law, we must explore all possible legal remedies to avoid any additional burden to Filipinos at this time when we are still addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Go emphasized.
Go also encouraged government finance managers and fellow legislators to work together and explore options for deferring or restructuring payment terms and rates of various financial obligations in accordance with existing laws.
“Pwede nating pag aralan na i-amend ‘yung law or i-defer natin ito through a provision in Bayanihan 3. Kung magpasa tayo ng Bayanihan 3, pwede pong ma-identify ng gobyerno doon sa batas kung ano ang pwedeng i-defer muna while nasa pandemic pa tayo,” he explained.
The Senator acknowledged that the increase, mandated under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, is necessary to sustain the services of the state insurance agency. However, he pointed out that thousands of Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers, have lost their jobs and livelihoods and, as a result, may be unable to pay or overburdened by the increased premium rate.
“May pandemya tayo ngayon at napakahirap pigain ang mga Pilipino na madagdagan pa ng 0.5 percent dito sa babayaran nila. Kaya nga po noong nakaraang Mayo ay sinabi ni Pangulo [Rodrigo Duterte] na boluntaryo lang sa OFWs ‘yung pagbabayad ng remittances,” Go said in a statement.
“Hirap na hirap na po ang ating mga kababayan, huwag na natin silang mas pahirapan pa. Siguraduhin natin na bawat piso na ibinabayad nila ay makakabenepisyo sa kanila,” he added.
Go urged government to help millions of Filipino workers, especially those grappling with monetary and health challenges, keep their health insurance while easing their financial burdens.
“Ang pakiusap ko sa mga kasamahan natin sa gobyerno ay huwag natin ipasa ang pasakit sa taumbayan lalo na sa panahon ng kanilang pangangailangan,” he said.
From 2020 to 2025, mandatory PhilHealth contributions will be increased annually until they reach 5% of the monthly income. Starting January 1, 2021, direct contributors shall pay a fixed monthly premium of P350 to P2,450 depending on their monthly income.
The contributions of the employed members will be shared equally by the employees and employers. Meanwhile, self-paying members, professional practitioners and land-based migrant workers, and other direct contributors with no employee-employer relationship must shoulder the full amount.
“Tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan, lalong-lalo na po ang mga OFWs natin, mga walang pambayad o ‘yung mga nawalan po ng mga trabaho — kawawa naman po. Wala na nga silang trabaho, tapos sisingilin pa natin,” continued the Senator,
Go sternly reminded PhilHealth to ensure the proper use of the funds available while expressing confidence that agency President and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran would prevent any corruption from occurring.
With the agency in danger of running out of funds, however, the Senator disclosed he would personally discuss with the President the possibility of augmenting PhilHealth’s budget to ensure that the provisions of the Universal Health Care Law are fully and properly implemented and Filipinos can continue to access affordable health care.
“I will personally appeal to the President na kung maaari, government na lang po ang mag-infuse or mag-augment later on kung saka-sakaling kukulangin ang pera ng PhilHealth,” said Go.
“We cannot afford also na masakripisyo itong UHC natin dahil lahat ng Pilipino ay miyembro ng PhilHealth sa ilalim ng Universal Health Care Law. Ayaw nating umabot sa punto na wala nang pambayad ang PhilHealth. Dapat ang gobyerno ang sumalo nito, lalung-lalo na sa mga kapatid nating mahihirap na walang pambayad.”