House of Representatives

Velasco bills to allow President to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes in national emergencies

Mara Cepeda
Velasco bills to allow President to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes in national emergencies
'These are extraordinary times and Congress must respond accordingly,' says Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco had filed two bills that would authorize the President to suspend the scheduled increases in Filipinos’ insurance payments in times of national emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Thursday, January 7, Velasco filed House Bill (HB) No. 8316 to allow the President to suspend the premium contribution hike for members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) “in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.”

The bill seeks to add this provision to Section 10 of Republic Act (RA) No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law. 

Under the proposed measure, the President may suspend the PhilHealth rate hike in consultation with the secretaries of the Department of Health and Department of Finance (DOF), as well as the PhilHealth chairman.

Velasco’s bill is similar to HB 8300 that Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo filed on Wednesday, January 6.

Velasco also wants to empower the President to suspend scheduled increases in the contributions of Social Security System (SSS) members through HB 8317.

HB 8317 seeks to allow the President to defer the hike in SSS members’ contributions upon consultation with the DOF chief, who is also an ex-officio member of the Social Security Commission. 

HB 8317 would introduce a new provision giving this power to the President under RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018.

Both the UHC law and the Social Security Act have specifically laid out schedules for the incremental increases in the contributions of their members. 

Both PhilHealth and SSS are supposed to increase their premium contribution rates this year, but the policy drew criticism from Filipinos who continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte had already directed his Cabinet to defer the scheduled hike in PhilHealth premiums this month.

“In line with the call of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to defer the increase in PhilHealth premium contributions, the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve a faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Velasco said in his explanatory note for HB 8317.

“These are extraordinary times and Congress must respond accordingly,” he added.

PhilHealth has since suspended the increase in contributions until Congress is able to pass a new law allowing the deferment of the scheduled adjustment. – Rappler.com

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.