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Salceda wants Philhealth bill to be “fairer” to OFWs; Author of Philhealth reform proposal hopes PBBM will prioritize overhaul of “broken” state health insurer

May 27th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) has reiterated calls for reforming the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) after Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have slammed recent increases in their mandatory premium contributions, going as high as P38,400 per year.

“For OFWs, it’s too expensive. And the question is very simple: what do they stand to gain from Philhealth contributions when they can’t go to Philippine hospitals abroad?” Salceda said, pointing to the mandatory contribution imposed on OFWs before they are permitted to leave the country for work.

“That’s more expensive, frankly, than most general life insurance coverages. And for what? It is literally impossible for an OFW to avail of Philhealth coverage while abroad. So, it’s literally for nothing on their end,” Salceda added.

“So, in the 19th Congress, I am refiling, with amendments, my proposed comprehensive overhaul of the whole system,” Salceda added

Salceda, principal author of House Bill No. 7570, or the Philhealth Reform Act, which would have reformed the system, exempted OFWs, and billed minimum wage earners only P100 in premiums monthly.

Health reform needs to be a PBBM priority

“I hope to work with the next Secretary of Health and SOF Diokno on reforming the Philhealth. I do hope that reforming healthcare is among the top of President BBM’s list,” Salceda said.

Salceda added that he “will convene stakeholders again to see how we can further refine and champion the Philhealth Reform Act.”

Salceda’s bill proposes systemic reforms in the collection system, management of the reserve fund, the distribution and verification of claims and benefits, and the governance of the agency.

Under the bill, the premium contribution scheme is made more progressive by linking the income tax rate with a premium contribution.

“We are tying the premium contribution to income and are ending the income ceiling system. Under the old scheme, the more you earn above the ceiling, the less you pay as a share of income. This is of course not progressive. We are improving the system by linking it with income,” Salceda said. “So, what I want to do basically, is lift the income cap so that the rich will pay significantly more, while the average worker will pay significantly less.” 

The bill also seeks to reform the PhilHealth governance structure by making the Secretary of Finance Chair of the Board.

Salceda noted that as an insurance and investment agency, PhilHealth needs the same caliber of management in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

“GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations) under the Secretary of Finance also seem to be better governed than other GOCCs,” he said.

For reform in the reserve fund management, the bill proposes making the Bureau of Treasury the fund manager of the investment reserve fund, accumulating net income into the reserve fund, and removing the two-year ceiling in fund life.

To prevent fraud in the reporting of cases, the bill mandates the creation of the national health database of all claims and benefits requested from and granted by the PhilHealth.

The one-patient, one-record principle will be followed, and an independent audit of the PhilHealth shall be required.

The bill mandates the PhilHealth president to report to the President of the Philippines and to Congress measures taken to address adverse audit findings.

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