‘Sin’ tax hike to fund Philhealth dues of another 5.6M families

THE national government intends to tap a portion of the additional income from higher “sin” taxes to help pay for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) premiums of another 5.6 million marginal families, Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said Sunday.

“Once the ‘sin’ tax reforms are finally passed by Congress, some of the extra revenues will be spent to provide Philhealth protection to around 5.6 million households in the informal sector, such as jeepney and tricycle drivers, as well as public market and street vendors, among others,” Gullas said.

The 5.6 million families will be on top of the 5.2 million indigent households already covered by Philhealth under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), Gullas said.

As to the 5.2 million needy households in the NHTS-PR, Gullas said some P12.6 billion has already been allocated in the proposed 2013 national budget to pay for their Philhealth contributions, which are being shouldered by government.

“Offhand, this is a very sensible and fair strategy — for government to mobilize some of the additional income from higher ‘sin’ taxes toward achieving universal health care for all Filipinos,” Gullas said.

Meanwhile, Gullas welcomed the growing number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) registered by Philhealth.

He stress that Philhealth is duty-bound to enlist as member every Filipino citizen, including OFWs.

“In fairness to Philhealth, it is the National Health Insurance Act of 1995 which requires the compulsory coverage of every Filipino citizen, rich or poor, working here or abroad. Philhealth is merely putting the law into effect,” Gullas pointed out.

The House of Representatives has already approved on third and final reading the “sin” tax reforms, as contained in House Bill 5727. The Senate is now deliberating its own version of the bill.

Based on the House-approved bill, the National Treasury stands to collect some P154.56 billion in additional revenues over the next four years from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The supplemental income will come from increased taxes on cigarettes; distilled spirits such as whiskey, brandy, rum, gin and vodka; and fermented liquor such as beer lager and ale.

The bill provides that: “The remaining balance of the incremental revenues in excess of the amount allocated under Republic Act No. 8240 shall be used to finance the universal health care program of the government, the annual requirements of which shall be determined by the Department of Health.”

RA 8240 provides that 15 percent of the additional revenue collected from the excise tax on tobacco products in particular shall be allocated and divided among the provinces producing burley and native tobacco.

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