Senator JV Ejercito on Monday assured the public that senators are willing to compromise with their counterparts in the House on disagreeing positions in the proposed Universal Health Care program to ensure that PhilHealth will not go bankrupt.
The Senate has proposed a P40,000 ceiling for premium contributions from direct contributors.
Ejercito, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said the senators are open to a compromise just to make sure there would be enough funds for the PhilHealth to sustain the UHC program.
Philhealth Independent Director and Risk Management chairman Antony Leachon warned that PhilHealth will go bankrupt if the Senate version will dominate the bicameral meeting.
He noted that their actuarial estimates showed that the Senate’s P40,000 ceiling is not sustainable.
Aside from compromising the viability of the health insurance fund, he said the proposal, if adopted, will violate social, health insurance principles.
“We are supporting the House position of ‘No Ceiling’... this is not possible, the PLLO (Presidential Legislative Liason Office) position of P100,000 ceiling,” he said.
For the first year of its implementation, the UHC program would need P257 billion which is way above the P93 billion budget of the Department of Health in 2019.
This has a funding gap of P164 billion.
Ejercito allayed fears that there is no enough budget to start implementing UHC program. He said the funding could last for two years, but on the third year, there will be no more funds.
Ejercito also agreed that there is a need to increase sin taxes particularly on cigarettes.
The senator added that they would conduct two more bicam meetings to settle the differences in the Senate and House versions of the UHC. He hopes to reconcile the disagreeing positions before Congress goes on Chrismas break.
He said they will also take up another contentious issue which was proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto giving incentives to director contributors of Philhealth premiums or paying members.
During the bicam hearing, Recto said paying members might be discouraged from paying their monthly contributions if they would receives the same benefits Philhealth as that of non-paying members or indirect contributors of premiums.
Additionally, Recto argued that there will be an increase in tobacco tax, 200,000 more people will stop smoking, mostly in the poorest quintile. There will be two. million smokers by 2022.