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FACT CHECK: 2023 PhilHealth rate hike suspended to ease socioeconomic challenges


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FACT CHECK: 2023 PhilHealth rate hike suspended to ease socioeconomic challenges
A YouTube video falsely links the suspension of the scheduled increase in premium rates to the agency’s past corruption issues and controversies

Claim: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to suspend the scheduled increase in premium rates for 2023 because it was more important to focus on the agency’s past anomalies and hold former officials accountable, including Senator Risa Hontiveros. 

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video containing the claim has 101,350 views, 3,500 likes, and 540 comments as of writing. It was posted by a channel with 738,000 subscribers.

The narrator of the video says: “Ayon sa inilabas ng Malacañang Palace, agad na sinuspinde ni Pangulong Bongbong Marcos ang dagdag singil o kontribusyon ng bawat miyembro ng nasabing health insurance company. Dahil sa di umano’y dapat mas bigyang atensyon ang mga nadadawit at dapat pagbayarin ang mga dating nanungkulan dito sa PhilHealth.” 

(According to the [memorandum] released by Malacañang Palace, President Bongbong Marcos immediately suspended the contribution hike of every member of the said health insurance company. This is because focusing on the former officials of PhilHealth [involved in anomalies] and holding them accountable is more important.)

The facts: The order to suspend the 2023 hike on PhilHealth premium contributions has nothing to do with the previous controversies of the agency, based on the memorandum released by Malacañang on January 2.

Nowhere in the memorandum was the agency’s corruption issues mentioned. It stated that the rate hike suspension aims to provide financial relief to Filipinos who continue to grapple with economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

The memorandum read: “In light of the prevailing socioeconomic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide financial relief to our countrymen amidst these difficult times, please be informed that the President has directed PhilHealth to suspend the above mentioned increase in premium rate and income ceiling for Calendar Year 2023, subject to applicable laws, rules and regulations.”

Under the Universal Health Care Law, premium rates shall gradually increase from 2.75% in 2019 to 5% in 2024 and 2025. Prior to the issuance of the memorandum, the premium rate was expected to go up from 4% to 4.5% in 2023. 

Corruption scandal: The state-run insurer was involved in a massive corruption scandal in 2020 when a former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer revealed that executives had been pocketing P15 billion through anomalous transactions. Philhealth has denied the allegations and insisted that there were no missing funds as the agency had already liquidated 98% of the P15 billion.

Investigative hearings on the corruption scandal exposed alleged illegal releases under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism and overpayments in case rate packages, among other anomalies. (CHEAT SHEET: Alleged PhilHealth anomalies uncovered in Congress probes)

Hontiveros link: The video also claims that Hontiveros was among those who would be held liable over the agency’s unauthorized disbursements flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

In 2018, COA ordered Philhealth to return P164 million in unauthorized perks for personnel, affirming its earlier decision to disallow bonuses and allowances granted to employees in 2009, 2010, and 2014. The COA reports, however, did not name Hontiveros, as reported by both Rappler and Vera Files. Hontiveros became a member of the PhilHealth board from November 2014 to October 2015, by which time the illegal allowances had already been released. She could not have been responsible for the illegal releases. She took her oath of office in June 2015, and resigned the same year to prepare for the 2016 election

Rappler has already debunked claims linking Hontiveros to various PhilHealth controversies:

– Ailla Dela Cruz/Rappler.com

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