PhilHealth eyes higher ‘sin’ tax subsidy

Posted on February 17, 2015

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is hoping to get a P52-billion subsidy fund from ‘sin’ taxes this year, an official said.

Alexander A. Padilla, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer, said the government earlier earmarked P37 billion for health insurance subsidy from taxes levied on tobacco and alcohol this year.

“The P37 billion from the national government does not include premium subsidy for automatic coverage of three million additional senior citizens.

Our computation for 2015 is about P52 billion because the revenue is better than expected,” Mr. Padilla told reporters in a recent press briefing here.

The total amount represents about 80% of the revenues projected to be generated from sin taxes, he said.

The remaining 20% is used to finance the upgrading of government hospitals and health facilities, expansion of public health programs, and hiring of health workers to support the implementation of the universal healthcare program.

Mr. Padilla said the state insurer is also ready to tap PhilHealth’s P145-billion reserve fund to cover increasing hospitalization expenses.

“If our expenses will exceed P37 billion, we will give report cards to Congress and to the executive to get more funds,” he said.

Republic Act No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Act, signed last December 2012, sets two price tiers both for tobacco products and fermented liquor, which will gradually increase to settle at a single rate by 2017, and a combination of ad valorem and specific tax for distilled spirits.

Under the new law, the incremental revenues from the higher taxes to be slapped on ‘sin’ products will be divided between the tobacco industry and universal health coverage.

The state health insurance firm received P35 billion from sin taxes in 2014.

This covered the premium payments for 14.7 million indigent families.

PhilHealth is also stepping up the implementation of its points of service program, where non-member poor families can enroll even during days of confinement in hospitals.

The insurance firm is paying P1.6 billion a week in 2014 from less than P500 million a week in 2010.

As end of last year, 82 million of the 100 million Filipinos are PhilHealth members. Total premium payment was about P81 billion last year and is expected to reach P94 billion this year.

The challenge is to provide insurance coverage to the informal sector, indigenous people, and overseas Filipino workers not registered with the government, Mr. Padilla said.

Meanwhile, the state health insurance firm is offering a new package for family members of the 44 Philippine National Police’ Special Action Force’s men who died in an encounter in Mamasapano last month.

“For the parents, we shall cover those below 60 years old, and if they are 60, they are covered through senior citizens benefits. For the wife, it would be a lifetime benefit, except when she remarries,” Mr. Padilla said.

“Minors will be covered up to 21 years old,” he added.

PhilHealth will likewise continue to provide insurance coverage to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mr. Padilla noted.

“We should not change our policy even after the incident because our mandate is to cover all Filipinos,” he said.

“Health care is the right of everyone,” he added. -- Sarwell Q. Meniano