Debts owed by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for its COVID-19 tests have piled up again and have reached P800 million due to the state insurer’s failure to pay on time, PRC chairman and Senator Richard Gordon said over the weekend. “It should not be the case that they will only pay when they want to because the debts will only grow and we will be forced to stop our services because we need to buy supplies and maintain the laboratories.”
Gordon said he has already sent a letter to PhilHealth asking them to update their payments.
PhilHealth spokesman Rey Baleña, in an interview on radio dzBB, asked the PRC for understanding because the state insurer must comply with the accounting rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit in processing claims.
In early October, the PRC stopped conducting COVID tests chargeable to PhilHealth due to the agency’s inability to settle its outstanding balance of over P930 million at that time.
The PRC resumed testing after the PhilHealth settled half of the balance.
Malacañang has earlier assured PRC that it would make good its obligations.
Starting this month, the premium rate of PhilHealth members will rise to 3.5 percent of their monthly basic salary, up from 3 percent in 2020.
Under the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, the premium rate will increase by increments of 0.5 percent every year, starting 2021 until it reaches the 5 percent limit in 2025.
While PhilHealth recognizes that the country is currently facing a pandemic, it said it is bound to implement the UHC law.
Balena said the premium hike was necessary to ensure the sustainable funding for the universal health care program, which automatically enrolled all Filipinos into the National Health Insurance program.
“This will enable us to sustain and expand the current level of benefits not only for hospitalization but for out-patient servics,” he said.
Senator Christopher Go, however, said in view of the pandemic and its negative impact on the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos, the increase in premium contributions might be deferred.
“While I recognize that this increase is mandated by law, we must explore all possible legal remedies to avoid any additional burden to Filipinos at this time when we are still addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Go said.
He also encouraged government finance managers and fellow legislators to work together and explore options for postponing or restructuring payment terms and rates of various financial obligations in accordance with existing laws.
The senator acknowledged that the increase, mandated under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, is necessary to sustain the services of the state insurance agency.
However, he pointed out that thousands of Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers, have lost their jobs and livelihoods and, as a result, may be unable to pay or be overburdened by the increased premium rate.
He urged government to help millions of Filipino workers, especially those grappling with monetary and health challenges, keep their health insurance while easing their financial burdens.
Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said PhilHealth members must enjoy a six-month reprieve from the higher premium contributions because of the pandemic.
“We are in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Even private pre-need companies are declaring a ‘fortuitous event’ to justify delays in the payment of their contractual obligations to thousands of plan holders,” he said.
“Surely, Philhealth members also deserve a temporary reprieve from the half percentage point increase in premium contributions,” he added.