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Friday, April 19, 2024

Decision on PhilHealth hike ‘soon’

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President Marcos on Wednesday said he will decide “very soon” on the implementation of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) 5-percent premium rate increase.

“It’s still under study but we’ll come to a conclusion very, very soon,” Mr. Marcos told the media before leaving for Canberra, Australia, when asked if he is in favor of increasing PhilHealth’s contributions.

This developed as three of the country’s most vocal business groups asked the President to temporarily delay the proposed increase in premium contributions to PhilHealth.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) wrote the President on Feb. 26 to ask for a temporary reprieve, given “a spate of unprecedented events that affect businesses and workers.”

“We humbly propose that PhilHealth momentarily redirects its focus on service enhancement, delaying the hike until 2025,” the business groups said in the letter.

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Mr. Marcos said he is still assessing the possible benefits of the premium hike, adding that he may support it if it is “justifiable.”

“It’s really a cost benefit analysis and PhilHealth has been expanding its services and trying to reach more people and trying to engage more people,” he said.

“So, if there is really a benefit, then, if we can justify the increase, then we’ll do it. But if we cannot, then we won’t. That’s how simple it is. It’s just a very straightforward cost benefit analysis,” he added.

PhilHealth on Feb. 14 vowed to enhance their services and patients’ benefit package.

On Feb. 23, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Ledesma Jr. said the Office of the President “pose[s] no objection” to the 5-percent premium rate increase implemented in January this year.

Malacañang, however, said the PhilHealth’s contribution hike is “still ongoing” to make sure that any increase will be advantageous to the members.

Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law mandates the increase in the PhilHealth contribution rate to increments of 0.5 percent every year starting in 2021 until it reaches 5 percent from 2024 to 2025.

Mr. Marcos previously suspended PhilHealth’s increase in premium rate and incoming ceiling for the calendar year 2023.

Meanwhile, the business groups said that suspending the rate hike “ would provide much-needed relief to the majority of vulnerable micro and small establishments, as well as Filipino workers who find it challenging to comply with the proposed premium hike, especially with the rising prices of commodities.”

The groups suggested that the President heed the Department of Health’s proposal to suspend the 5 percent increase in premium contributions.

According to Health Secretary Teddy Herbosa, a delay in the implementation timeframe would not significantly impact PhilHealth’s financial standing, considering the agency has sufficient funds to continue providing benefits and services to its members.

Ledesma said PhilHealth’s fund will not be depleted as easily, even if it postpones the premium contribution rate increase.

The groups noted that Universal Health Care (UHC) Law of the Philippines continues to face challenges while aiming to offer comprehensive healthcare coverage for all citizens.

Researchers from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) emphasized that the ongoing issues are related to access and affordability.

Despite being PhilHealth members, individuals still shoulder a significant portion of hospital expenses themselves, the business groups noted.

“This situation particularly impacts vulnerable groups, including the elderly, women, and those in rural and impoverished areas, who disproportionately shoulder the burden due to limitations in national health insurance coverage,” they said.

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