Philippines proposes suspension of PhilHealth premiums for minimum wage earners

Recommendation aims to boost take-home pay

Philippines proposes suspension of PhilHealth premiums for minimum wage earners

Life & Health

By Roxanne Libatique

A lawmaker from the Philippines has initiated a legislative proposal aimed at temporarily halting the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) premium payments for minimum wage earners to boost their disposable income.

Introduced by Stella Luz Quimbo, representative for Marikina's 2nd District, through House Resolution No. 1595, the measure seeks to pause premium deductions for low-income workers, potentially increasing their daily earnings by around PHP 400 in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Quimbo's proposition hinges on the temporary suspension of PhilHealth contributions for minimum wage earners during an evaluative period focused on assessing potential expansions of PhilHealth benefits and revising premium rates downwards.

“The PhilHealth contributions of minimum wage earners (should) be temporarily suspended pending a review of the expansion of PhilHealth benefits and reduction of their premium contributions,” Quimbo said, as reported by Philstar.

Supporting minimum wage earners

According to Philstar's report, the resolution suggests employing PhilHealth's unused budget allocations for subsidising premiums, thereby offering prompt fiscal relief to economically disadvantaged workers.

The document references the PHP 80 billion earmarked by the 2022 Congressional budget for subsidising PhilHealth premiums for disadvantaged groups, which resulted in a PHP 24 billion surplus due to only PHP 56 billion being claimed in benefits.

Quimbo pointed out that with PhilHealth's reserves projected to swell to PHP 463 billion in 2023 – a 68% increase from the prior year – this financial cushion, built from unspent member premiums and governmental subsidies, is more than sufficient to cover the premium payments of minimum wage workers for an entire year, considering their contributions totalled to PHP 19.6 billion in 2022.

According to the lawmaker, this financial strategy would not affect PhilHealth's stability and would redirect funds initially set aside for the healthcare of senior citizens and the most impoverished sectors towards providing temporary economic alleviation for minimum wage earners.

Benefit review

Additionally, the resolution calls for a thorough examination of PhilHealth's current benefit packages and the structure of premium contributions in accordance with the Universal Health Care Law.

This initiative aligns with broader government efforts to enhance social protection measures for low-income earners, with a vision to expand healthcare benefits for all members and to potentially revise or eliminate premium payments for minimum wage and self-employed individuals earning similar incomes.

In line with Speaker Martin Romualdez's push for PhilHealth to cover a greater portion of healthcare costs for patients in private wards, the proposal also aims to design healthcare packages with a focus on disease prevention and improved support for hospitalized patients, underscoring the cost-saving premise that prevention is more economical than cure.

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