Congress may erred in writing Universal Health Care Act – Gordon
MANILA, Philippines — Congress may have erred in writing the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act by failing to include a provision that allows the Social Security System (SSS) to withhold the increase of member contributions during times of crises, Sen. Richard Gordon said on Saturday.
He said he would propose an amendment to the law that would empower the SSS president or its board to defer contribution hikes during emergency situations like the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have not included that in the law, and I admit that as an error on hindsight, as we cannot be expected to anticipate everything, such as this eventuality now that members will be hard up in paying contributions,” he said.
Gordon was referring to Republic Act No. 11223, or the UHC law, which provides health coverage for all Filipinos. It took effect in February 2019.
In line with the expanded coverage of the UHC program, Republic Act No. 11199, or the SSS Act of 2018, allowed the state insurer to impose a new contribution rate of 13 percent, which is 1 percent higher than the current rate.
According to Gordon, the SSS has no choice but to implement the law, even during this time of the COVID-19 crisis.
He said he had called up SSS executives to request them to defer the implementation of the increase, as Congress started working on an amendment of the law that President Duterte could certify as urgent.
“SSS needs to sustain its life, but how can members pay contributions at this time when many have lost jobs, and employers closed down businesses?” Gordon said.
The story, however, is different for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), Gordon said.
“I want PhilHealth to explain what they are doing with their funds that they fail to pay off hospitals. As we have established before, they are using their money for various purposes, but for the longest time, we know that a mafia operates from within,” he said.
Gordon, who is also president of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), called on PhilHealth to update its debt payments in order to sustain COVID-19 testing.
Due to delays in their payments, PhilHealth again owes PRC about P800 million, the senator said.
“Much that I would want to discuss that, but they cannot keep on reneging on their duty to pay because we are buying the medicines, and pay the salaries of medical personnel. Soon, we may be constrained to stop testing,” he said.
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