House of Representatives

House OKs bills allowing suspension of PhilHealth, SSS hikes

Mara Cepeda
House OKs bills allowing suspension of PhilHealth, SSS hikes
If passed into law, the bills would authorize the President to suspend contribution increases during a national emergency

The House of Representatives passed two bills that would allow President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend scheduled increases in Filipinos’ insurance payments during national emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the plenary session on Monday, February 1, lawmakers first approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 8461 with 227 yes votes, 6 no votes, and no abstentions. 

HB 8461 is the final version of all other bills that seek to authorize the President to suspend the premium contribution hike for members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) when there is a national emergency. 

The bill would provide this additional power to the President by amending Section 10 of Republic Act (RA) No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act.

But Duterte may only do so after consulting with the secretaries of the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Health, as well as the PhilHealth chair.

In the same session, the House voted 228-6-0 to approve HB 8512, which gives the President the power to defer the scheduled hike in the contributions of Social Security System (SSS) members. 

As with the PhilHealth bill, HB 8512 states that the President may temporarily stop the increases in SSS contribution rates upon consultation with the finance secretary, who is also an ex-officio member of the Social Security Commission.

The bill would make this possible by adding a new provision to RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018.

Only the 6 progressive legislators from the Makabayan bloc voted against the bills because they want scheduled increases in PhilHealth and SSS rates permanently stopped, and not just deferred. 

They include ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite. 

“Temporaryong relief lamang ang maibibigay nito sa ating mga mamamayan. Ipinagpaliban lamang ang pabigat, na muling papasanin kapag natapos ang temporaryong suspensyon na itatakda ng Presidente,” Gaite said as he explained his no vote. 

(This would just give temporary relief to our countrymen. It just defers the burden which they must once again bear once the President’s temporary suspension is lifted.) 

The Senate versions of the PhilHealth and SSS hike suspension bills, however, are still pending in the upper chamber.

Both PhilHealth and SSS are mandated by existing laws to increase their premium contribution rates in 2021, but the looming hikes drew widespread opposition from Filipinos who continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.

This prompted Duterte to direct his Cabinet to defer the scheduled hike in PhilHealth premiums in January of this year.

PhilHealth itself decided to suspend the scheduled increase until Congress is able to pass a new law allowing the deferment of the scheduled adjustment. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.