Senators: Recover billions of stolen Philhealth funds instead of premium hike

At least two senators on Wednesday voiced their concern on the scheduled increase on Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) contributions, saying it is not the right time to push with rate adjustments amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the state insurance corporation to recover billions of PhilHealth funds which was allegedly stolen by its top officials through different fraudulent schemes.

“Matapos nilang ilustay at nakawin ang bilyun-bilyon dadagdagan pa nila ang sisingil sa ating mga kababayan na sadsad na sa gastusin? Sila ang dapat singiluna na ibalik yung bilton na binulsa ng mga opsiyal nila at hindi ang taumbayan,” Pangilinan told the Daily Tribune when asked for comment on the matter.

“Anong kahibangan ito? Nakaw pa more? Hindi ngayon ang panahon upang dagdagan ang gastusin ng ating mga kababayan sa kalusugan at lalo na’t milyon milyon ang walang trabaho at walang makain,” he added.

Pangilinan likewise said that the government should use its recent borrowings for the healthcare system’s improvement instead of passing the buck to PhilHealth members.

“Sa dami ng inuutang ng Gobyerno para sa Covid response unahin dapat nila tustusan ang gastos sa health sa halip na ipasa sa taumbayan,” he said.

Although the scheduled increase is mandated by the Universal Health Care Law, Senator Imee Marcos said pushing through with the hike will be “cruel and unusual punishment” to workers.

“To impose an additional burden to contributors at this time is indeed cruel and unusual punishment,” she said.

The lawmaker said the state insurer should regain the confidence and trust of the Filipino people following the recent multi-billion scandals that hounded PhilHealth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It should demonstrate that it can properly deliver its services to its members and that members are satisfied and are getting back what they are contributing,” Marcos said.

Marcos is also studying if PhilHealth can defer the scheduled rate hike on its own and without amending the UHC Law.

“I am already drafting an amending bill to defer said scale-up of premiums PhilHealth their members can ill-afford in these difficult times,” she said.

In a statement on Wednesday, PhilHealth announced that it will push through with the implementation of contribution rate and adjustments in income ceiling for 2021 to ensure that “sufficient funding for the healthcare benefits of its 110 million members as mandated by the Republic Act No. 11223 or the UniversalHealth Care (UHC) Law.”

The premium rate will increase to 3.5 percent of the monthly basic salary from the current three percent.

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