Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will benefit from a bill that aims to institute reforms in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
House Bill (HB) 7578, or the PhilHealth Reform Act of 2020, will exempt OFWs from paying PhilHealth premiums since they don’t earn their income in the country and do not use its services. Low-income earners will save about P4,800 in yearly contributions.
Bill author and Albay Representative (2nd District) Joey Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) said HB 7578 seeks to overhaul the main segments of PhilHealth’s operations to “fully fund universal health care and root out corruption and mismanagement in the agency PhilHealth.”
The bill incorporates the recommendations contained in a 33-page aide memoire he recently submitted to the House leadership and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to solve the PhilHealth crisis.
Salceda said his proposed reforms are both structural and anti-fraud. Under the bill, the premium contribution scheme is made more progressive, linking income tax rate with premium contribution.
Minimum wage earners who are exempt from income taxes will only pay P100 minimum contributions monthly, down from around P250 to P500 per month under the current system.
“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 not progressive. We are improving the system by linking premium with income,” Salceda said.
The bill also reforms the PhilHealth governance structure and makes the Secretary of Finance as its board chair since PhilHealth is an insurance and investment agency and a financial company.
“We need the same management caliber of that in the Government Service Insurance System for PhilHealth,” Salceda said, noting that government-owned and controlled corporations under the Secretary of Finance seem to be better governed.
HB 7578 also seeks to reform PhilHealth’s reserve fund management, making the Bureau of Treasury as fund manager of its investment reserve fund; mandates the creation of the national health database of all claims and benefits requested from and granted by PhilHealth which will also follow the one-patient, one-record principle; requires an independent audit of PhilHealth, apart from those conducted by the Commission on Audit; and mandates the PhilHealth president to report to the President and to Congress measures taken to address adverse audit findings.
“These recommendations are consistent with the findings of both the Senate and House investigations, as well as our own study of PhilHealth’s finances and governance,” Salceda said.
To develop the infrastructure necessary for the databases, HB 7422 or the Philippine E-Health and Telemedicine Development Act of 2020 was also filed “to extend primary care to the remotest regions (preventing the higher costs of overspecialized care), and, if used to develop a national health database, would help prevent cases of fraud.”
Salceda also called for the passage of the Cheaper Medicines For All Act (HB 6219) which enhances the existing Cheaper Medicines Law and seeks to include medical supplies and medically necessary
assistive equipment such as prosthetics in the coverage.