By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Health Secretary Ted Herbosa (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – Health Secretary Ted Herbosa has requested for the suspension of the implementation of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) premium rate increase this year.

In a media forum at the Manila Hotel, Herbosa said he sent a letter of recommendation to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday, explaining that the suspension of the premium hike would not significantly impact PhilHealth’s capital and assets.

“Kung ako tatanungin, sana suspended pa rin siya, nung suspended siya, wala naman nawala sa mga benepisyo, nabigay pa nga, nag-increase pa nga eh (If I will be asked, I hope it is still suspended because benefits were still provided when it was suspended, in fact, the benefits even increased),” he said.

“Sa Universal Health Care (UHC) Law rin, nalilipat ang pera ng PAGCOR [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation], PCSO [Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office], ang pinaka sin tax, binibigay sa PhilHealth para pambayad sa benepisyo ng mahihirap (In the Universal Health Care Law also, money from the PAGCOR, PCSO, the sin tax, are given to PhilHealth to cover the benefits of the poor).”

Under the UHC Act of 2019, PhilHealth contributions are scheduled to increase starting 2020 when a 3 percent hike was due.

It is followed by 3.5 percent in 2021; 4 percent in 2022, 4.5 percent in 2023, until the increases hit 5 percent in 2024 to 2025.

However, these scheduled increases were suspended by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing socioeconomic challenges caused by the pandemic, Marcos also suspended the increases in premium rate and income ceiling of PhilHealth for 2023.

“If ever the President will agree to the contribution, my recommendation is to start from where we stopped, not the current 5 percent. If we stopped at 2 percent or 3 percent increase, we start at where it was suspended,” Herbosa said.

“That for me is the logical way to lift suspension. We don’t jump to a very high [percentage] kasi kawawa ang mga tao (We don’t jump to a very high percentage because people will be affected significantly).”

While it is a fact that PhilHealth needs a big capital to implement all its projects and cover all its duties, Herbosa said contributions from indirect members have increased through the years — starting from 30 billion to 50 billion to 80 billion in 2023.

“Ang thinking ko dyan, pwede pa rin isuspinde (My thinking about that is, it can still be suspended). I need to see good actuarials on this one. You need to have a science-based policy. Hindi ‘yung whim na itataas mo lang (You do not raise the rate on a whim).

As chairperson of the PhilHealth Board of Directors, Herbosa said he would discuss the concern with the board members on Jan. 17. (PNA)