• Palace told to explain hike in PhilHealth rates

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered Malacañang to explain the increase in members’ premium contributions implemented by the Philippine Health Corp. (PhilHealth) this year.

    During en banc deliberations, the SC magistrates mandated President Benigno Aquino 3rd to comment on the petition to block the increase filed by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

    The SC deferred the issuance of a temporary restraining order with regards to the prayer of the petitioner.

    “The Court resolved to require respondents to comment on the petition and the application for a TRO,” the SC said.

    In a 22-page petition for certiorari, KMU and National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno, represented by their officers, asked the high court to nullify the three PhilHealth circulars numbered 0027s-2013 (dated September 20, 2013), 0025s-2013 (dated September 28, 2013), and 0024s-2013 (dated September 30, 2013) that authorized the hikes.

    The group urged the court to declare these issuances as null and void as it supposedly failed to comply with a “reasonable, equitable and progressive contribution schedule.”

    Circular 0027s-2013 provides for a new contribution rate with P200 as minimum for those in the employed sector; Circular 0025s-2013 increases the annual contributions to P2,400 from P1,200 in 2013 for land-based overseas contract workers starting Jan. 1 this year, and Circular 0024s-2013 increases to P2,400 from P1,800 in 2013 the annual contributions for individually paying members with a monthly income of P25,000 and below effective January 1 this year.

    The group blasted how “those with lower salaries have their PhilHealth contributions increased while those with higher salaries maintain their contribution rates.”

    KMU said the increase, which will raise members’ minimum monthly contribution from P750 to P1,000, is an added burden to workers already suffering from stagnant wages and soaring prices and is part of the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to subsidize health services.

    “We are calling on the Supreme Court to stop this additional burden for workers who are already suffering from low wages and high prices. This premium hike is part of the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to subsidize health care,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

    The labor leader counterposed the premium hike with the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, which was approved last December, and the impending privatization of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital as well as other public hospitals under President Aquino.

    “Aquino is clearly a Health Disaster. He is meting out a death sentence to many Filipinos by causing huge increases in Filipinos’ payments for health services through the privatization of public hospitals and the hike in PhilHealth premiums,” Labog said.

    He also rejected PhilHealth’s excuse for the premium hike, saying the expansion of PhilHealth’s coverage and the improvement of the insurance corporation’s benefits should be shouldered by the government, not by members.

    KMU also said that both the PhilHealth board and the Aquino government are insensitive to the dire situation of workers and the poor that’s why it is easy for them to increase members’ premiums to PhilHealth as well as the Social Security System.

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