Duterte postpones hike in PhilHealth contributions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered to delay the increase in PhilHealth contributions.

In his weekly address, Duterte said, "May I suggest to the PhilHealth chairman, si Dante Gierran...huwag muna ngayon. No increase in contributions. I will look for the money to fill it up."

[Translation: May I suggest to the PhilHealth chairman, to Dante Gierran...not now. No increase in contributions. I will look for the money to fill it up.]

Duterte said it was the government's job to make people's lives easier "at this time."

Earlier, Senator Bong Go said the President's move was due to the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pina defer na muna ni PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) ang increase sa PhilHealth... Pandemic tayo ngayon, trabaho ng government humanap ng paraan and to make easy for the people," Go said.

[Translation: The President has deferred the increase in PhilHealth (contributions)... We are in a pandemic; it is the government's job to find ways to make it easy for the people.]

Go did not say when the order would become effective, as well as other details about the order.

PhilHealth has also yet to give a statement on the matter.

Earlier, the senator revealed the President was backing the call for the hike's deferment, and was open to approving a budget augmentation to help keep afloat the state insurer, which has been riddled with fraud allegations.

"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," he said.

[Translation: If the government needs to allocate additional funds to ensure PhilHealth's services will not be affected, he will review it and sign it.]

On Sunday, Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Mike Defensor, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Health, said his proposed six-month delay will not negatively affect PhilHealth. He also said Congress could pass a joint resolution asking for the six-month deferment if necessary.

"Our rough estimate is that PhilHealth will be postponing less than ₱500 million worth of incremental premiums on an annual basis from direct contributors... The ₱500 million is a drop in the bucket for PhilHealth," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos has filed Senate Bill 1966, seeking to suspend the increase in PhilHealth contributions.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday, PhilHealth Spokesperson Rey Baleña said they had no authority to change the law, and would leave such a move to Congress.

"Batid na batid ng PhilHealth, at lubos na nauunawaan po ng ahensiya ang kasalukuyang situation ng marami nating kababayan, at yung sitwasyon ng maraming negosyo. Ngunit...wala sa kapangyarihan ng PhilHealth na hindi po ipatupad ang itinatadhana ng batas," he told Newsroom Ngayon. "Wala tayong authority para hindi ito iimplement."

[Translation: PhilHealth knows and understands the current situation of the people as well as of many businesses. But it is not within our power to stop implementing what the law dictates. We do not have the authority to stop this from being implemented.]

In December, PhilHealth explained the increase is meant to "ensure sufficient funding for the health care of its 110 million members as mandated by Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law."

The premium rate will be increased to 3.50% from the current 3.00%.

"The premium adjustment is provided for in Section 10 of the UHC Law and its implementing rules and regulations, the guidelines of which are contained in Circular 2020-005 published by PhilHealth on March 5, 2020," said PhilHealth.

Starting Jan.1, those who have a monthly basic salary of ₱10,000 and below should have a fixed contribution of ₱350 a month. Those earning ₱70,000 and higher per month would pay a fixed rate of ₱2,450 monthly.

This is a developing story.