Herbosa appeals to Marcos to suspend PhilHealth premium hike

By GISELLE OMBAY,GMA Integrated News

Health Secretary Ted Herbosa on Wednesday said that he has asked President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to suspend the implementation of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (PhilHealth) premium rate increase in 2024.

In a media forum, Herbosa said he sent a recommendation letter to Marcos on Tuesday, stressing that the move would not significantly impact the state health insurer's financial standing if the premium increase would be delayed.

“If ever the President will agree to the contribution, my recommendation is to start from where we stopped, not the current 5%. If we stopped at 2% or 3% increase, we start at where it was suspended. That for me is the logical way to lift suspension. We don’t jump to a very high [rate] kasi kawawa ang mga tao (We don't jump to a very high rate because people will suffer),” Herbosa said.

“My position is that, I think PhilHealth has enough money to actually continue to give benefits. It will not be hurt by delaying the increase in premium. I need to see good actuarials on this one. You need to have a science-based policy. Hindi 'yung whim na itataas mo lang (You do not raise it on a whim). There are other things that are supporting health care," he added.

The Health secretary attributed his position in maintaining the suspension of the premium hike to the rising prices of commodities. 

"Nagtataasan kasi [ang presyo ng] lahat ng bilihin eh, so it is the right time to actually already fill in. I know PhilHealth is healthy with a very good reserve and a very good investment," Herbosa said.

(The prices of basic commodities have increased, so it is the right time to actually already fill in. I know PhilHealth is healthy with a very good reserve and a very good investment.)

The Health secretary is set to discuss the matter with the PhilHealth board on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 17. Herbosa also serves as chairperson of the PhilHealth Board of Directors. 

President's review

Meanwhile, Malacañang confirmed that Herbosa's appeal has been brought to the attention of the President.

Asked if Marcos already received the letter from the Health chief, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil told reporters, "The President is studying the request."

The scheduled increase in PhilHealth rates is in accordance with the Universal Health Care (UHC), which was signed in 2019 by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.

The law mandates hikes in the PhilHealth contribution rate until it reaches 5% by 2024.

To recall, Marcos ordered the suspension of the premium rate and income ceiling hike of PhilHealth for the calendar year 2023, citing the socioeconomic challenges caused by the pandemic.


The premium rate was supposed to increase to 4.5% last year, while the monthly basic salary ceiling should have been P90,000.

Last Friday, PhilHealth said its plan to expand the coverage of its benefits packages this year will still push through even if the President suspends the mandated increase in premium rates.

Senators expressed support for Herbosa's request.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said that deferring the implementation of the PhilHealth premium rate hike would not only be considerate but also sensitive to the economic burdens of the nation.

“Nagawa naman na noon, ngayon pa kayang may garantiya mula sa mismong Secretary of Health na may sapat na pondo ang PhilHealth para isulong ang pagsasakatuparan ng Universal Health Care?” she said in a statement.

(It was done before; it could also be done now that there’s a guarantee from the Secretary of Health that PhilHealth has enough funds to push for Universal Health Care.)

Senator JV Ejercito, sponsor of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, said he already filed a bill adjusting the PhilHealth premium rate increase.

“I support Sec. Ted Herbosa’s proposal to suspend increase in Philhealth contributions because there is a pending bill that I filed on amendments to the UHC to adjust premium rates as we are still recovering from the pandemic,” Ejercito said. 

“We have done studies on the numbers and PhilHealth said it will not affect the benefits and packages,” he added. 

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Health committee chairperson, expressed a similar sentiment that Filipinos are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Marami pa rin tayong mga kababayan ang nahihirapan sa kanilang hanapbuhay. Huwag na nating dagdagan pa ang bigat ng hirap na kanilang dinadala,” Go said. 

(A lot of Filipinos are still struggling with their livelihood. Let us not put additional burden on them.)

“Bilang chair ng Senate committee on health, panawagan ko naman sa pamunuan ng PhilHealth ay tuluyang sugpuin ang mga anomalya sa ahensya, pagbutihin ang serbisyo nito at siguraduhing bawat piso sa pondo ng taumbayan ay nagagamit para sa mga Pilipino,” he said. 

(As the chairperson of the Senate health committee, I call on PhilHealth leadership to curb all anomalies within the agency and improve their service.)—VDV/VBL/AOL, GMA Integrated News