Velasco: Congress can help amend SSS, PhilHealth laws

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) – January 8, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Lord Allan Velasco yesterday supported calls for the suspension of rate increases in the payment of Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) premiums, saying the House of Representatives can help amend the laws on the matter.

“These are extraordinary times and Congress must respond accordingly,” Velasco said, referring to the Universal Health Care Act of 2018 or Republic Act 11223 and the Social Security Act of 2018 or RA 11199.

Velasco said no less than President Duterte himself supported the calls to defer the increase in PhilHealth premium contributions.

The measures sought for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions of members in the private sector for the state pension fund SSS, and PhilHealth – whose members have reached about 18 million, including around three million overseas Filipino workers.

Velasco filed two separate bills seeking to grant Duterte the power to suspend the scheduled increases as he also called for its swift approval to alleviate the financial burden faced by Filipino workers amid the COVID crisis.

Under the bills, Duterte may, in consultation with the secretaries of the Departments of Health and Finance as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively, suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.

Velasco said the intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized – Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, of high quality and responsive.

“While we recognize that PhilHealth only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said in the explanatory note of House Bill 8316 that he authored.

“Suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments,” Velasco reiterated.

Filipinos have barely recovered from the losses and difficulties brought by COVID-19.

“Even today, while some restrictions may have been lifted, most livelihood, businesses, and other sources of income remain shuttered and closed, while many Filipinos remain unemployed,” the Speaker said.

In filing House Bill 8317, Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions would help the workforce achieve a faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.       

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