Low Collection Prompts PhilHealth To Recommend Delaying Universal Healthcare Law
The state insurance, PhilHealth, has appealed to Congress on Tuesday to have a “general delay” in the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law due to their low collection of contributions.
PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales disclosed to the lawmakers that their agency hasn’t collected a significant amount of payments due to the pandemic. In a statement during a joint congressional oversight hearing on the UHC law, he said that their collection was only about ten percent of what it was last year. He added that the collection has dropped significantly because businesses have ceased their operations and individual contributors couldn’t pay their premiums.
According to PhilHealth, direct contributors are the private, government, and informal sectors plus lifetime members, while indirect contributors refer to senior citizens, sponsored beneficiaries, and members under the National Household Targeting System.
PhilHealth’s benefits expenses as of April 30 have already reached over ₱52.5 billion while they’ve only collected a total of ₱46.5 billion as of the said date. Due to this, the agency is prompted to recommend the postponement of the expansion of primary care benefit packages to January 2021 which was supposedly set by Health Secretary Francisco Duque next month.
“What we proposed to do is to focus on the lighter expenditure of the primary healthcare such as accreditation…of providers,” said Morales. He added that should they have better data, they can maybe start to introduce the primary healthcare packages later on, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out.
Lawmakers were however opposed to the recommendations explaining that the present COVID-19 crisis reinforces the need to roll out primary care.
Morales clarified that they can still afford to provide the primary healthcare benefits since funds have already been laid out for it. However, he warned that a budget deficit could continue until 2024 amid the pandemic due to PhilHealth maintaining benefit payouts for COVID-19-related confinements and testing worth ₱40.7 billion.
Meanwhile, Philhealth also confirmed that OFWs will no longer be enforced to pay their PhilHealth premiums to acquire an overseas employment certificate. Morales explained that it was initially required so that they can have a registry of all OFWs, considering only over 300,000 out of millions of them are actively paying their premiums.
The PhilHealth President reiterated that premium payments for OFWs are now voluntary even though he admitted that he was against it explaining that it will compromise the fundamental argument for insurance if a segment of the membership will be voluntary because the other membership segments might also ask for the same privilege.