Press Release
March 3, 2021

Bong Go urges PhilHealth to ensure continued access to quality healthcare while exerting all efforts to unburden Filipinos as bills deferring PhilHealth contribution hike pass committee level

The Senate Committee on Health and Demography, chaired by Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, approved on the committee level on Tuesday, March 2, proposed measures which seek to defer the scheduled increase on the monthly contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

"When the [Universal Health Care Act] was crafted, no one knew that a pandemic would hit us. Although the increase in PhilHealth contributions ensures sufficient funding for the health care of its members [...] it is only reasonable and equitable to postpone incremental premiums due to the bad economic conditions caused by [the crisis]," said Go.

"The government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the [UHC] law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered," he emphasized.

The agency's premium contribution rate is set to climb from 3% of the monthly basic salary of a direct contributor in 2020 to 3.5% in 2021 as mandated by Republic Act No. 11223 or the UHC Act. Mandatory contributions will be increased annually until 2025 upon reaching 5% of the monthly income.

To address the issue, the committee approved the proposed bills which grant the President of the Philippines the authority to suspend any increase in the premium contributions in times of national or public health emergencies.

The measures included SBN 2000, 1977, 1971 and 1966 which are authored by Senators Go, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon and Imee Marcos, respectively. The committee also approved SBN 1968 which is principally authored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva and co-authored by Senators Sonny Angara, Maria Lourdes Binay, and Win Gatchalian.

The committee likewise took into consideration SBN 1975, a bill authored by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., which provides for the suspension of any premium contribution hikes during a state of emergency or calamities by amending the UHC Act.

Following the approval, a Committee Report will be prepared by the Health Committee so that the bills may be taken up in the plenary.

"Nagsabi na po si Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte, sang-ayon po siya na ipagpaliban pansamantala muna ang pagtaas sa premium rates ng PhilHealth habang may pandemya pa tayong kinakaharap," said Go.

"Hirap na ang ating mga kababayan, huwag na natin silang mas pahirapan pa [...] Tulungan na lang natin sila. Paano natin pagbabayarin ang ordinaryong Pilipino na nawalan na nga ng kabuhayan? Tulad ng sabi ng Pangulo, it is the job of the government to make it easy for everybody at this time," he continued.

According to PhilHealth, the deferment will result in a P17.5-billion net loss and the scaling down of its Konsulta package in 2021. PhilHealth officials assured that the loss will be covered by the Reserve Funds, bringing the latter down from P160.58 billion to P143.51 billion.

To better assess the financial status of the agency, the Senator asked PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran during the hearing for an update on the agency's efforts to recover the funds allegedly stolen through fraudulent schemes.

Gierran reported that 95% of the P14.9 billion advance payments made to hospitals and other health facilities through the interim reimbursement mechanism had already been liquidated. The state insurance agency is expected to complete the liquidation process by the end of March.

Go welcomed the developments as he also dispelled any concern about the possible dissolution of the agency later that day in an interview after distributing aid to fire victims in Pasay City.

"Kailangan natin ang PhilHealth. They form part [of the] campaign ... laban sa COVID-19. Sila nagbabayad ng testing so mahirap pong yanigin ang kanilang opisina," he explained.

"Ang importante, hindi maantala ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth. Ayaw natin mangyari na lalapit ang pasyente sa PhilHealth at tatanggihan. Mahirap naman mag increase ngayon. Walang pera ang mga kababayan natin. Balansehin natin ang lahat. Ako ay nakikiusap sa PhilHealth, pangalagaan niyo ang perang hawak niyo ... 'wag tayong pumayag na ni piso may masayang," appealed the Senator.

In addition to the above bills, the committee also discussed during the same hearing SBN 1792, 1747 and 1642, measures authored by Senators Francis Tolentino, Angara and Marcos which institute policies for the "new normal' and provide for new programs from health care modernization, public transportation, creation of jobs to the promotion of public spaces, among others.

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