Voluntary contribution sought as PhilHealth announces scheduled hike

December 30, 2020 - 6:00 PM
Undated photo from PhilHealth's website. (Photo from PhilHealth)

Voluntary contribution to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation was sought by some Filipinos after the agency announced the implementation of the scheduled contribution rate adjustment.

The state-run agency announced that it will raise the amount of members’ contribution next year to 3.5% of the monthly income from the current 3% under the Universal Healthcare Law (UHC Law).

Based on the reported memo, those with a monthly basic income of P10,000 and below would still have a fixed contribution of P350 per month.

Those earning P10,000.01 to P69,999.99 will have to contribute between P350 to P2,449.99 while those earning P70,000 and up will contribute a fixed rate of P2,450 per month.

The scheduled increase will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

Members’ contributions to PhilHealth are split between the employer and the employee but those who are self-paying members, professional practitioners and migrant workers fully pay the rates on their own.

Under the UHC Law, it is mandated for the state health insurer to increase its premium rates to increments of 0.5% every year, starting from 2021 up to 2025, when it reaches its 5% limit.

PhilHealth reportedly said that the higher contributions will assure enough funding for additional medical benefits and subsidies.

It would also support reforms under the law which are being availed by Filipinos such as automatic membership, assignment of every Filipino to a primary care provider and no copayment for confinements in basic or ward accommodations, among others.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III defended the increase amid a raging pandemic and said that the scheduled minimal increase is “needed to ensure the long-term actuarial sustainability of the system,” referring to PhilHealth’s capacity to meet future financial obligations.

Meanwhile, some Filipinos shared their grievances on social media following the reported increase and hoped that the contribution to PhilHealth would not be mandatory in light of the corruption allegations this year.

“Can someone make a petition na gawing voluntary ang PhilHealth contributions. ANG KAKAPAL NG MUKHA E,” a Twitter user wrote in response to the announcements.

“Petition na hindi gawing mandatory ang PhilHealth contribution. Petition na bawat employer maging responsible sa pag (enforce) ng HMO (health maintenance organization) sa mga empleyado,” another online user commented.

“Pfft. Sana voluntary contribution na lang Philhealth. Nagiging mandatory donation sa bulsa ng mga executives lang kasi,” a different Filipino likewise tweeted.

Another Twitter user commented that he prefers a private health maintenance organization’s services than that of the state health insurer in which some of its senior officials were accused of supposedly pocketing billions of the agency’s funds.

The UHC Law or Republic Act 11223 prescribes Filipinos to become automatic members of the National Health Insurance Program, established to provide “affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all citizens of the Philippines.”

“Every Filipino shall be granted immediate eligibility and access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services, delivered either as population-based or individual-based health services,” part of the law states.

PhilHealth is mandated to “serve as the means for the healthy to help pay for the care of the sick and for those who can afford medical care to subsidize those who cannot,” among others.

Corruption allegations vs PhilHealth

This year, the agency’s senior executives were accused by its former anti-fraud officer, Thorsson Montes Keith, of supposedly pocketing P15 billion of its funds.

PhilHealth was also in hot water for its IT budget’s questionable costs of items which included a laptop costing P15.32 million.

The agency also failed to verify around 5,000 of its members who remained in its system and were registered to be 130 years old.

It was also hit for its management of funds in light of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.

In October, the National Bureau of Investigation filed a 29-page complaint affidavit against now-former PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales and eight other officials for malversation, and graft and corruption.

RELATED: ‘Where’s the accountability?’ Morales hit for resignation amid PhilHealth corruption mess

Several resignations also followed, which prompted accountability calls from Filipinos, including Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said that an “easy exit” for them was not enough.

PhilHealth has been hounded by several issues even before this year.

In 2018, former health secretary Janette Garin—who is now a representative of Iloilo—and former budget secretary Florencio Abad, were accused of diverting funds for senior citizens worth some P10.6 billion to be used for the 2016 campaign of Liberal Party candidates.

Former PhilHealth President Celestina Ma. Jude dela Serna was also sacked over questionable costly travel expenses in 2017.