By Azer Parrocha

File photo

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ordered the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to suspend the increase of its premium rate and income ceiling for the calendar year 2023, Malacañang announced on Monday.

A memorandum released from the Office of the President signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin ordered the deferral of a scheduled hike in the PhilHealth premium rate from 4 percent to 4.5 percent and income ceiling from PHP80,000 to PHP90,000 for 2023 under Republic Act (RA) No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

Bersamin cited “socioeconomic challenges” and “difficult times” as reasons for suspending the increase of premium rate and income ceiling.

“In light of the prevailing socioeconomic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to provide financial relief to our countrymen amidst these difficult times, please be informed that the President has directed PhilHealth to suspend the above mentioned increase in premium rate and income ceiling for Calendar Year 2023, subject to applicable laws, rules and regulations,” the memorandum read.

The increase of premium rate and income ceiling is in accordance with the UHC law.

Under the law, the premium rate will increase to increments of 0.5 percent every year starting 2021 until it reaches 5 percent in 2025.

In January 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte directed PhilHealth to defer the hike amid the health crisis.

Earlier, PhilHealth Corporate Communications senior manager Rey Baleña said the yearly increase would be used for the benefit plan of 2023, including KonSulTa (Konsultasyong Sulit at Tama), a comprehensive primary care benefit that provides easier access to essential services such as consultations, health risk screenings, laboratory tests, and medicines.

It is also expected to provide outpatient therapeutic care for severe and acute malnutrition; outpatient package for mental health; and continuous Covid-19 benefit package.

Balena added that the increase was important so that every Filipino can be given “competent access to medical services.” (PNA)