“We strongly urge the suspension of the Philhealth premium hike amid the soaring prices of basic goods, commodities and services. The hike has already caused the failure of payment of teachers’ loans with their measly salaries barely sufficient for their daily needs following the implementation of the premium hike last June 15.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Prioritize wage increase instead of Philhealth premium hike.
This is the lament of Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro on the reported increase in Philhealth premium for this year. She said the government must “prioritize wage hikes for workers instead of imposing increases in contributions, especially in agencies with massive corruption issues.”
She also urged Congress to urgently hear House Joint Resolution 34 filed by the Makabayan bloc, seeking to defer the looming Philhealth premium hike amid massive price hikes and glaring unresolved issues in the Philhealth.
The House Joint Resolution 34 was filed in January 2021 to immediately suspend the increase in Philhealth premiums amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution, however, remains pending in the Committee on Health in the last Congress.
“We hope that the incoming 19th Congress can find the urgency and prioritize the immediate suspension of the Philhealth premium rate hike,” Castro said.
The increase in Philhealth premium is mandated under the Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act. For the year 2022, premium rate is at four percent for contributors with monthly income of P10,000 ($187) to P80,000 ($1,494).
“We strongly urge the suspension of the Philhealth premium hike amid the soaring prices of basic goods, commodities and services. The hike has already caused the failure of payment of teachers’ loans with their measly salaries barely sufficient for their daily needs following the implementation of the premium hike last June 15,” Castro said.
In an earlier statement, ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said that the it is best that the whole premium rate hike schedule be reviewed altogether as “it is already too much a burden to our workers and teachers, especially as the country still grapples with the worst economic crisis under the pandemic and the surging oil prices and runaway inflation.”
With the plan to retroactively implement the premium hike from three percent to four percent by June 2022, monthly Philhealth contributions of entry-level teachers will increase from P381.58 to P508.78. The premium difference from January to May will also be collected, thus effecting by June a total of P1,017.56 for Philhealth contributions alone, Basilio explained.
The premium rate hike will also take away most of the public teachers’ take-home pay, said Basilio.
“Because of loans, teachers’ net take-home pay is only P5,000 ($93) per month. How much will be left for our family’s needs when prices of basic utilities and commodities have also gone up,” Basilio added.
Basilio said that it would be best if the government will implement significant wage increase first before implementing Philhealth premium rate hike.
“It would also be better for the government will pay its debt to teachers such as overtime pay for the 77 extra working days of teachers in school year 2020-2021 and honorarium for teachers who work overtime last elections. The Philhealth premium hike is thus another burden for teachers and workers,” Basilio said.
Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong also expressed their strong opposition to the implementation of the premium rates and protested at the Philippine Consulate to express their grievances.
Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chairperson United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL) described the premium hikes and mandatory fees as “undemocratic, unscrupulous, and unnecessary.”
‘Imposing fees on a population who can ill afford it is undemocratic. Overseas Filipinos budget their salary to the last cent. Imposing more fees will mean a reduction in their family’s quality of living. For OFWs, this is heart-breaking as we work overseas so that our families can be given a good life,” Pelaez said in a statement.
She said they will not forget the P15 billion ($280 million) scam of Philhealth or the dubious purchases of Social Security System.
“With no moves to ensure that our hard-earned money will be taken care of, can anyone blame us for refusing to cough up these fees?” Pelaez said.
Meanwhile, due to strong opposition on the Philhealth premium rates the Senator –elect Joseph Victor Ejercito, the author of Universal Health Care Act is also calling for the suspension of the scheduled premium rate hikes.
The scheduled Philhealth premium rate hike last year was deferred after President Duterte called for its suspension.
“As it is the Duterte administration as well as the incoming one should focus their efforts on how to roll out a significant wage hike for teachers before even implementing an increase in Philhealth premiums, because the planned premium increase is another burden to their almost broken backs,” Basilio said. (RVO)