MANILA – The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a proposal granting the President the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Bill OK’d on 2nd reading: House allows President to halt Philhealth premium rate hike

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MANILA – The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a proposal granting the President the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

READ: Villanueva bats for full PhilHealth coverage for vaccine side effects

The chamber passed via voice vote House Bill 8461, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act.

READ: Papogi sa tao! House panel OKs bill suspending Philhealth premium hike

The proposal will grant the President of the Philippines power, in consultation with the Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Health, and PhilHealth Board, to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, principal author of the bill, said suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates would provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments.

“While we recognize that the (PhilHealth) only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans (countrymen) under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said.

READ: Patikim pa lang: Guevarra assures more raps will be filed over Philhealth anomalies

He said Filipinos have barely recovered from the losses and difficulties brought about by the restrictions designed to contain the deadly virus.

READ: Ping: Charges vs corrupt PhilHealth officials validates Senate’s oversight function

“These are extraordinary times, thus the remedy needed to further unburden our countrymen are also extraordinary. These are necessary measures that need to be taken in order for us in government to extend help to those who need them the most,” Velasco said.

READ: Nagbunga rin pag-iimbestiga: DOJ files charges vs 25 former, current Philhealth officials

House health committee chair Angelina Tan, sponsor of the bill, said the premium hike suspension would provide PhilHealth contributors immediate relief amid the difficult times brought about by the pandemic.

READ: Palace appreciates filing of bill suspending PhilHealth, SSS contribution hikes

Tan, however, noted that it should not in any manner undermine the ideals and goals of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, which has a noble intention of ensuring that all Filipinos are guaranteed access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.

READ: Sumakay para sumipsip! Velasco files twin bills granting Duterte power to suspend hikes in SSS, Philhealth premium rates

This lofty ambition, however, should be supported by sufficient funds to sustain the reforms introduced by the UHC law, which is the rationale for annual and incremental increases on the premiums and “to espouse a spirit of social solidarity so that those who have less in life should have more in law,” she said.

READ: Sa 2022 na lang maningil! Over 50 lawmakers call for deferment of Philhealth premium rate hike

PhilHealth President Dante Gierran supported the deferment on the condition that the subsequent scheduled increases in the premium contributions shall be adjusted to fall on the years following the lifting of the suspension and that the implementation of comprehensive outpatient benefits would also be deferred during the period that there is no corresponding premium increase being implemented.

Under the UHC law, those who have a monthly basic salary of PHP10,000 and below will have a fixed contribution of PHP350 a month starting January 2021.

Those earning PHP10,000.01 to PHP69,999.99 have a monthly premium of PHP350 to PHP2,449.99, while those earning PHP70,000 and higher per month will pay a fixed rate of PHP2,450 monthly. (PNA)

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May parusa ‘pag umayaw! AFP requires soldiers to be vaccinated vs COVID-19

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) inoculation is mandatory for all of its personnel but they have the option to choose among vaccine brands other than Sinovac at their own expense.

“Thus, to get inoculated or not is not an option for the members of the AFP, it is a duty. At the most, the exercise of an option will be the option to as to what brand of vaccine they will be availing of, but the cost of which will not be paid by the AFP,” AFP spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in an online press briefing.

Malacañang earlier announced that the first batch of Sinovac Biotech vaccines composed of 600,000 doses donated by China is set to arrive on Sunday (Feb. 28), with 100,000 doses of which will be given to the Department of National Defense, the AFP’s mother agency.

Aside from military personnel, Arevalo added that their chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has said that their dependents must be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, those opting for other vaccine brands who decided to forego their inoculation can do so but once they are called to duty to serve as front-liners, they will have no choice but to follow.

“They must perform their duties and task but they will have to resort to the traditional health protocol, mag-mask, mag-shield, maghugas ng kamay at mag-maintain ng social distance pansamantala habang hindi pa sila natuturukan ng vaccine na pinipili nila (like the wearing of mask, face shields, regularly washing their hands, and maintaining social distance while they are yet to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice),” Arevalo said.

Meanwhile, said AFP personnel assigned and performing duties that will expose them to Covid-19 patients are required to have themselves vaccinated with the available vaccines.

He added that the AFP will play three major roles in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine — security, medical and logistics support operations. (PNA)

Payag ba sa barter? Bello waiting for UK’s response to PH offer to deploy more healthcare workers

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is waiting for the response of the United Kingdom (UK) on its proposed provision of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine amid UK’s request for an exemption from the deployment cap of Filipino healthcare workers (HCWs).

In a telephone interview on Thursday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they expect the UK government to respond on the issue within 10 days.

“I told them for me to be able to recommend it to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases), I have to be assured of the safety of our workers. The only way we can be assured about the safety of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) is (through) the vaccine,” he said.

Bello said the UK may want to send the coronavirus vaccines so the country can immunize the nurses before they are deployed.

“For us to be able to send our medical workers, we want to ensure that they are safe and their health is secured. We don’t have the vaccine, if they want, they can send us (vaccine),” he added.

Bello said he did not provide specific quantities of the vaccines.

“Why not include all OFWs and not just HCWs. In case they are ready to give us the vaccines, I will give them the number of OFWs that will be vaccinated. I just want to be sure that those who will be deployed have received the vaccine,” he added.

The Philippine government is asking the UK and Germany to provide vaccines against Covid-19 for OFWs as part of the agreement in relation to the deployment of health service workers, particularly nurses.

The country has two bilateral agreements with the UK in 2002 and 2003.

The UK and Germany are seeking to be exempted from the 5,000 cap on the deployment of nurses being implemented by the government to ensure there is an adequate number of nurses in the country in case the need arises.

Meanwhile, Bello said he understands the reaction of the people on the issue.

“They thought I would barter our nurses with the vaccine. I just hope that before they accuse me, they should have asked me first and look at what really happened. They just criticized and what they are saying is not true,” he added. (PNA)

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