Doctors want PhilHealth rate hike suspended

Davao Medical Society and former governor of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA)-Southern Mindanao former president Dr. Malou Monteverde bares that the medical doctors in Davao City are one with the medical doctors in the rest of the country in pushing for the amendment of the Universal Health Care (UHC) including the suspension of the Premium Payment contribution by PhilHealth. Edge Davao

Medical doctors in Davao City joined the call for the suspension of the premium payment contribution being implemented by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Dr. Malou Monteverde, former president of Davao Medical Society and former governor of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA)-Southern Mindanao, said the medical doctors in Davao City are one with their colleagues in the rest of the country in pushing for the amendment of the Universal Health Care (UHC) including the suspension of the Premium Payment contribution by PhilHealth. 

In its PhilHealth Circular No. 2019-0009 published on November 23, 2019, premium rate for Direct Contributors shall still be at 2.75 percent of their monthly basic salary with an adjusted ceiling of P50,000. In 2020, PhilHealth will increase the rate to three percent and henceforth adjusted to increments of 0.5 percent every year until it reaches the five percent limit in 2025 as provided for by law. Income floor is fixed at P10,000 during the five-year period, while salary ceiling will gradually increase by P10,000 each year until it reaches P100,000 in 2025. For those earning below the salary floor of P10,000, contributions are computed using the minimum threshold; while those who earn the set ceilings/limits shall pay premiums based on the set ceiling.

During the First Joint Congressional Oversight Committee Meeting on UHC last June 16, 2020 attended by the medical doctors led by PMA president, Dr. Jose Santiago, together with the Philippine College of Surgeons president Dr. Jose Antonio Salud,  Dr. Raquel Llarena of the Paranaque Medical Society and Monteverde, the group expressed their sentiments with regards to UHC 2019 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the health sector. 

“The doctors recognize that the Universal Health Care is imperative to provide quality health service to the nation. The Premium Payments are based on income tax returns of contributors.  The doctors group ask that they be recognized as partners in the Universal Health Care and should not be marginalized,” Monteverde said in a phone interview. 

She added that the physicians further asked that there be a review of the UHC law and that they be included as private sector representatives at the national level and to the loca government units (LGUs) especially in health care delivery and policy decisions, including the Special Health Fund, which will be created and managed by province-wide or city-wide health systems wherein all resources intended for health services will be pooled to finance population-based and individual-based health services. 
“And other issues related to health,” she said.   

Monteverde said this appeal from the medical groups stemmed from the various issues, which started during the devolution of the National Health Insurance Program, which was established to provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable and accessible health care services for all Filipinos; and now with the initial phase of the UHC Law. 

The meeting was co-chaired by Senate Committee on Health Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and House Committee on Health Representative Angelina Tan, Senate conferees consisted of Senators Risa Hontiveros, Francis Tolentino, Richard Gordon and JV Ejercito, who is the principal author of the UHC law. 

Present during the said meeting for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act (UHCA) were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and PhilHealth President Retired Brigadier General Ricardo Morales. 

Among the House Members present were Representatives Michael Defensor (Party-list, ANAKALUSUGAN), Janette Garin (1st District of Iloilo City), Maria Laarni Cayetano (2nd District, Taguig City-Pateros), Maricel Nagano M.D. (4th District, Nueva Ecija), and Yedda Marie Romualdez (Party-list, TINGOG SINIRANGAN), and representatives from the OFW groups.

“The PhilHealth during the said conference, already stated that the request for Premium Contributions adjustment, under the equity principles of Bayanihan and Social Solidarity, the equitable share of premiums should be maintained and such changes in the premium contribution table shall require amendments to the UHC Act,” Monteverde said. 

Monteverde added that PhilHealth already recommended a general delay in the implementation of the UHC and to disaggregate membership segments in terms of premium increase implementation.

She said the move to amend the UHC Law is also supported by about 10,000 members of the United Filipino MDs represented by Dr Jeanette Suanding-Edillon and Dr. Christian Arce Luna, administrator of United Filipino MDs. 
She added that an online petition, which started last May 4, 2020, for the suspension of the premium contributions as well as review of the UHC has already gathered more than 40 thousand signatures from the medical groups.

“The appeal of the one hundred thousand members of the Philippine Medical Association especially during these crucial times of the pandemic is urgent since they are at the Frontlines, putting their lives at stake for the nation,” Monteverde said.