PhilHealth hike deferment, caused by widespread opposition

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the deferment of the scheduled 3% hike in PhilHealth members’ contribution because of the widespread opposition of Filipino workers and the public. The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) credits the Filipino workers and people’s opposition, not this government’s supposed concern, for this action.

Workers and most Filipinos know that any rate increase is unacceptable during the present health and economic crises. Many migrant workers were laid off from work and are now at home, jobless. Many workers were also retrenched, while many workers who were retained face  wage cuts and work reduction. Those who go to work do so facing huge risks to their health and very lives.

More than 3.8 million Filipinos are unemployed. The prices of basic goods and services have increased with an inflation rate at 3.5%. The country is mired in debt: we will be paying for PhP 11.98 trillion in debt with 58.1% of the Gross Domestic Product this year, and preparing for the PhP 13.7 trillion of debt consuming 59.9% of the GDP in 2022.

PhilHealth does not deserve any increase in members’ contributions.
(1) PhilHealth members were almost left to fend for ourselves when financial assistance and social protection were insufficient during the lockdowns and continued company shutdowns.
(2) It did not lessen health care costs as out-of-pocket spending still covers nearly half of the country’s health expenditure.
(3) Despite receiving 25% of the PhP 278.5 billion health budget, it did not safeguard our contributions as its officials illegally released funds during the pandemic, misused its operating budget to pay off taxes using said funds, window-dressed their financial statements, and bloated their budget proposals for excess funding.
(4) Ultimately, it destroyed our trust as soon as its officials were exposed to have pocketed around PhP 15 billion. An increase in members’ contributions further removes the responsibility of health care provision from the government and transfers the burden to the already-vulnerable. Health is a right and should be a top priority of the government, especially during this pandemic. While the World Health Organization or WHO does not identify an absolute percentage of public spending needed to achieve health for all, it did recognize the significance of financial protection and service coverage.

The government should put the health of its workers and people first, relieving us of the burden to finance our health and ensuring access to quality health care anywhere in the country. Workers and Filipinos need a tax-funded health insurance with a well-connected health care system, not a privatization safety net scheme like PhilHealth.

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