THREE business groups said on Wednesday that they have asked the government to delay the increase in contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which is scheduled to take effect this year.

In a letter addressed to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. pressed for the suspension of the 5% premium increase.

“With utmost respect, we unanimously support Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa’s call… to suspend the premium increase in 2024,” the business groups said.

Mr. Herbosa also chairs PhilHealth.

“(Mr. Herbosa) has stated that the proposed action would not significantly impact PhilHealth’s financial standing, considering that the agency has sufficient funds to continue providing benefits and services to its members,” they added.

They said that this was further affirmed by PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel R. Ledesma, who said the health insurer’s funds will not be depleted if the contribution hike is suspended.

Under Republic Act No. 1123 or the Universal Health Care law, PhilHealth premium contributions should have increased by half a percentage point yearly starting 2021 until it reaches the 5% target by 2024. The hikes were suspended due to the pandemic.

However, the business groups argued that the Universal Health Care law still faces various challenges in offering comprehensive healthcare coverage to all.

Citing a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, they noted ongoing issues related to access and affordability, with individuals, despite being PhilHealth members, still shouldering a significant portion of hospital expenses.

They noted the outsized impact on vulnerable groups like the elderly, women, and those in rural and impoverished areas, “who disproportionately shoulder the burden due to limitations in national health insurance coverage.”

“In light of these circumstances, we humbly propose that PhilHealth momentarily redirect its focus on service enhancement, delaying the hike until 2025,” they said.

“This temporary reprieve would provide much-needed relief to the majority of vulnerable micro and small establishments, as well as Filipino workers who find it challenging to comply with the proposed premium hike, especially with the rising prices of commodities,” they added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile