House OKs on final reading bill allowing president to suspend PhilHealth hikes
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that would allow the sitting president to suspend the increase in premium contribution rates of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) members has been approved by the House of Representatives on the third and final reading.
During the House session on Tuesday, House Bill (HB) No. 6772 was approved, with 276 lawmakers voting in the affirmative, with three lawmakers voting against it, and none abstaining.
Earlier, it was announced that 276 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure, but it was later corrected at the plenary.
HB No. 6772 was authored by key House officials led by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and other majority officials. If this bill is enacted, Section 10 of Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act will be amended to have a provision allowing the chief executive to suspend the hikes in case of national emergencies or when it is in the interest of the public.
“The President of the Philippines may, upon the recommendation 0f the Philhealth board, suspend and adjust the period of implementation 0f the scheduled increase of premium rates during national emergencies or calamities, or when public interest s0 requires,” the bill read.
According to Romualdez, the suspension of rate hikes in the future would contribute greatly to helping Filipinos recover during national emergencies.
“Suspending the imposition of the new Philhealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief during national emergencies or calamities and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments in this difficult time,” Romualdez said in a statement.
The premium hikes were intended to support the country’s Universal Healthcare Act, which aims to provide accessible healthcare, especially for indigent Filipinos. However, in the process, the law also places a burden on a lot of Filipinos who may also be affected by crises and emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has supported the suspension of the premium hike, although, for 2023, it was done through a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin. The bill would institutionalize the suspension of premium increases should the President deem it necessary.
Under the said memorandum, the scheduled hike in the PhilHealth premium rates — from 4 percent to 4.5 percent, alongside the increase in the income ceiling of members paying the highest contribution from P80,000 to P90,000 — was deferred.