TWO panels at the House of Representatives separately granted the President the power to suspend increases in contributions by members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS).
The Committee on Health approved on Thursday House Bill 8316, which amends Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law that imposes an annual increase in premium rates from 2019 to 2025.
It allows the President to suspend the implementation of such increases in times of national emergencies such as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Under the UHC law, premium rates are supposed to be increased this year from 3 percent to 3.5 percent. Members earning below P10,000 per month will pay a fixed monthly premium rate of P350 while those earning P70,000 per month or higher will have a fixed monthly rate of P2,450. Meanwhile, the monthly premium rate of contributors earning between P10,000 and P70,000 will be computed at 3.5 percent.
President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered a deferment of the scheduled increase this year.
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said that without the contribution increase, PhilHealth is projected to forego P434 million from direct contributions in 2021. She, however, noted that the state insurer has a P163-billion reserve fund that is sufficient to address any cash flow issue and cushion the suspension of premium rate hikes.
PhilHealth Chief Dante Gierran said they still support the bill “provided that the subsequent scheduled increases in the premium contributions can be adjusted to full on the years”.
Meanwhile, the Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization also approved on Thursday House Bill (HB) 8317, which amends Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, that mandates annual increases in monthly premium contributions of both employees and employers from 2019 to 2025
House Bill 8317 empowers the President, in consultation with the Secretary of Finance and the ex-officio Chairperson of the SSS, to suspend the increases in times of national emergencies such as the pandemic.
Under the law, contribution rate is supposed to increase from 12 percent to 13 percent in 2021, which is from 8 percent to 8.5 percent for the employer and from 4 percent to 4.5 percent for the employee.
The panel has also approved HBs 8304, 8313, 8315 and 8422, which seek to defer the implementation of the rate increases. The measures will be consolidated with HB 8317 by a technical working group that the panel has created.
SSS President Aurora Ignacio, during a hearing, opposed the measures “because of their expected adverse financial impact to the financial health of the SSS, and eventually, on the benefits of the pensioners members and their beneficiaries”.
Ignacio said the deferment of the increase this year would lead to a projected loss of P41.37 billion in 2021 contributions, a projected deficit P14.90 billion in 2021, and higher unfunded liabilities.