Philhealth: Collection of contribution suspended amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2020   •   267

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) on Monday clarified that all collections of contribution have been temporarily suspended amid the crisis brought about by the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In an interview in UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan Program, Philhealth spokesperson Dr. Shirley Domingo said the collection was suspended in consideration of those who are not receiving their monthly salaries due to the work stoppage in different sectors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philhealth issued the statement following protests of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on the new premium rates imposed by the state health insurer.

READ: Mga OFW, may apela kaugnay ng dagdag-kontribusyon sa Philhealth

An online petition against the premium rate hike has so far reached over 300,000 signatures, as of posting time.

The protest stemmed from the Circular 2020-0014 issued by the agency in April requiring OFWs who are earning P10,000 to P60,000 to pay three percent of their monthly salary starting 2020. This is higher than the 2.75% in the previous year.

Domingo said the implementation of the increased rate is stated under the Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, stressing that they are only following the law.

However, she emphasized that in recognition of the present situation, Philhealth is not collecting any contribution at this time.

Domingo also said that the agency has adopted a flexible payment scheme where OFWs and other members can finish their premiums for the year.

In a separate statement, Philhealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales assured they fully understand the sentiments of OFWs regarding the increase in premiums, and that they are exploring several possibilities to cushion its impact.

“Recognizing that everyone is cash-strapped during these difficult times, and in the spirit of the recently passed Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan We Heal As One Law which is government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, PhilHealth has adopted a flexible payment scheme which will allow OFWs – and all other directly paying self-employed members – to pay their contributions within the year,” Morales said.

He said the Philhealth had earlier released P30 billion in advance to some 5,000 nationwide accredited hospitals to provide financial protection to Filipinos amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He also explained that the purpose of the Universal Health Care Act is to provide affordable and adequate healthcare to all Filipinos.

“Such a program requires funding collected through premium contributions,” Morales said.

He reported that in 2019, 44% of the premiums were subsidized by the national government while the balance was collected from individual members and their employers, where OFWs are counted.

“Benefits-wise, 36% of beneficiaries were from the informal and private sector while 37% were accounted for from the indigents and senior citizens whose premiums were paid by the national government,” he said.

“Last year, with a collection from OFWs amounting to P 1.02 Billion (comprising 1% of premiums from direct contributors), OFWs claimed P 1.7 Billion in benefits with 69% of claims attributed to their dependents in the country while 31% was claimed by overseas OFWs,” he added.

Under the UHC Act, benefit coverage is planned to be increased and expanded so that more Filipinos can be served better.

“This is the fundamental basis for the premium increase. These ambitious health goals must be supported by adequate funding collected through increased premium rates,” Morales said.

“PhilHealth commits to continue exploring means to soften and alleviate the impact of the premium rate increase, but it cannot change the law,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

PNP mulls reopening of Custodial Center to visitors amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday said it will assess whether its Custodial Center can be reopened to visitors amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

PNP chief Police General Archie Gamboa said they need to thoroughly study the possibility of reopening the facility because of its proximity to quarantine facilities housing police personnel infected with COVID-19 and the PNP RT-PCR test laboratory.

At present, the visitation of inmates at the PNP Custodial Center is prohibited in compliance with the safety and health protocols set by the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gamboa said they are only following the measure implemented by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the detention facilities in the country.

“Standard naman ‘yung sinusunod natin, together with the BuCor and BJMP. We need to reassess whether to open up sa visitors yung Custodial Center,” he said.

Gamboa’s statement comes after opposition senators questioned the PNP’s move to bar Senator Leila de Lima from accepting visitors and holding physical meetings with anyone.

The PNP chief, however, assured that De Lima is allowed to make phone calls. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Renault closes site, restructures factories in France in bid to slash costs

UNTV News   •   May 29, 2020

PART MUST ON-SCREEN COURTESY RENAULT.

Renault said on Friday (May 29) it was launching talks with unions to restructure several French car plants, as it confirmed plans to cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide and the closure of one France plant.

Faced with a slump in demand that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, Renault is aiming to find 2 billion euros ($2.22 billion) in savings over the next three years as it shrinks production and hones in on key car models.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Interim Chief Executive Clotilde Delbos said 4,600 jobs in France are in peril of being cut.

Renault Group Board of Directors Chair Jean-Dominique Senard hailed the cost-reduction plan to be both “defensive” and “offensive,” as he announced the closure of the Choisy-le-Roi factory, which manufactures motors, the sole plant to halt activity out of Renault’s 14 plant sites.

Senard said though that the Caudan site in Brittany, which was also threatened of closing will maintain operations, adding that Renault is working with the regional government to think about the future of the plant. (Reuters)

(Production: Ardee Napolitano)

Pacquiao seeks 1-year freeze on Philhealth premium rate hike for health workers

Robie de Guzman   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Manny Pacquiao on Friday said he has filed a resolution calling for a one-year suspension of the increase in Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) premium contributions for healthcare workers amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In Senate Resolution 429, Pacquiao urged the Senate to call for the suspension of the increase in Philhealth premium rate for healthcare professionals for the year 2020 “as a token of gratitude” to their sacrifices amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The senator filed the resolution as Philhealth is poised to implement an increase in premium payments from 2.75% to 3% of its members’ monthly salary.

The increase is provided in the Universal Health Care Act, which provides for the automatic enrolment of all Filipino citizens in the government’s National Health Insurance Program. The law also mandates an annual increase in premium rate until it reaches 5% by 2024.

“The first year of the implementation of the increased rate of premium contributions, coincided with the advent and continuation of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines,” the resolution read.

“This has constrained most, if not all, health care professionals and other health care workers in the country sacrificing and risking their well-being and even their lives, to help cure the afflicted and stem the surge of transmission of the disease caused by the Covid-19 virus,” it added.

Pacquiao also pointed out that the pandemic has resulted in the “disruption of the professional practice of the health care professionals concomitantly leading to the marked decrease in the income of health care professionals and related health care workers, and to some, even to the closure of their clinics.”

“Such a suspension may help these frontliners in a small way, but the recognition and expression of gratitude will go a little farther to support them moving forward,” he said.

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) earlier called on the government to suspend the premium payment increase for medical workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

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