Thursday, July 12, 2012

Philippine Health Care v CIR G.R. No. 167330 September 18, 2009

J. Corona

Philippine Health Care’s objectives were:
"[t]o establish, maintain, conduct and operate a prepaid group practice health care delivery system or a health maintenance organization to take care of the sick and disabled persons enrolled in the health care plan and to provide for the administrative, legal, and financial responsibilities of the organization.”
It lost the case in 2004 when it was made to pay over 100 million in VAT deficiencies. At the time the MFR was filed, it was able to avail of tax amnesty under RA 9840 by paying 5 percent of the tax or 5 million pesos.
Petitioner passed an MFR but the CA denied. Hence, this case.

Was petitioner, as an HMO, engaged in the business of insurance during the pertinent taxable years, and was thus liable for DST?

Held: No. Mfr granted. CIR must desist from collecting tax.

Section 185 of the NIRC . Stamp tax on fidelity bonds and other insurance policies. – On all policies of insurance or bonds or obligations of the nature of indemnity for loss, damage, or liability made or renewed by any person, association or company or corporation transacting the business of accident, fidelity, employer’s liability, plate, glass, steam boiler, burglar, elevator, automatic sprinkler, or other branch of insurance (except life, marine, inland, and fire insurance).
Two requisites must concur before the DST can apply, namely: (1) the document must be a policy of insurance or an obligation in the nature of indemnity and (2) the maker should be transacting the business of accident, fidelity, employer’s liability, plate, glass, steam boiler, burglar, elevator, automatic sprinkler, or other branch of insurance (except life, marine, inland, and fire insurance).
Under RA 7875, an HMO is "an entity that provides, offers or arranges for coverage of designated health services needed by plan members for a fixed prepaid premium."
Various courts in the United States have determined that HMOs are not in the insurance business. One test that they have applied is whether the assumption of risk and indemnification of loss are the principal object and purpose of the organization or whether they are merely incidental to its business. If these are the principal objectives, the business is that of insurance. But if such is incidental and service is the principal purpose, then the business is not insurance.
Applying the "principal object and purpose test," there is significant American case law supporting the argument that a corporation, whose main object is to provide the members of a group with health services, is not engaged in the insurance business.
For the purpose of determining what "doing an insurance business" means, we have to scrutinize the operations of the business as a whole. This is of course only prudent and appropriate, taking into account laws applicable to those in the insurance business.
Petitioner, as an HMO, is not part of the insurance industry. This is evident from the fact that it is not supervised by the Insurance Commission but by the Department of Health. In fact, in a letter dated September 3, 2000, the Insurance Commissioner confirmed that petitioner is not engaged in the insurance business.
As to whether the business is covered by the DST, we can see that while the contract did contains all the elements of an insurance contract, as stated in Sec 2., Par 1 of the Insurance Code, the primary purpose of the company is to render service. The primary purpose of the parties in making the contract may negate the existence of an insurance contract.
Also, there is no loss, damage or liability on the part of the member that should be indemnified by petitioner as an HMO. Under the agreement, the member pays petitioner a predetermined consideration in exchange for the hospital, medical and professional services rendered by the petitioner’s physician or affiliated physician to him.
In other words, there is nothing in petitioner's agreements that gives rise to a monetary liability on the part of the member to any third party-provider of medical services which might in turn necessitate indemnification from petitioner. The terms "indemnify" or "indemnity" presume that a liability or claim has already been incurred. There is no indemnity precisely because the member merely avails of medical services to be paid or already paid in advance at a pre-agreed price under the agreements.
Also, a member can take advantage of the bulk of the benefits anytime, e.g. laboratory services, x-ray, routine annual physical examination and consultations, vaccine administration as well as family planning counseling, even in the absence of any peril, loss or damage on his or her part.
Petitioner is obliged to reimburse the member who receives care from a non-participating physician or hospital. However, this is only a very minor part of the list of services available. The assumption of the expense by petitioner is not confined to the happening of a contingency but includes incidents even in the absence of illness or injury.
Consequently, there is a need to distinguish prepaid service contracts (like those of petitioner) from the usual insurance contracts.
However, assuming that petitioner’s commitment to provide medical services to its members can be construed as an acceptance of the risk that it will shell out more than the prepaid fees, it still will not qualify as an insurance contract because petitioner’s objective is to provide medical services at reduced cost, not to distribute risk like an insurer.
If it had been the intent of the legislature to impose DST on health care agreements, it could have done so in clear and categorical terms. It had many opportunities to do so. But it did not. The fact that the NIRC contained no specific provision on the DST liability of health care agreements of HMOs at a time they were already known as such, belies any legislative intent to impose it on them. As a matter of fact, petitioner was assessed its DST liability only on January 27, 2000, after more than a decade in the business as an HMO.
In view of petitioner’s availment of the benefits of [RA 9840], and without conceding the merits of this case as discussed above, respondent concedes that such tax amnesty extinguishes the tax liabilities of petitioner.
21 Our Insurance Code was based on California and New York laws. When a statute has been adopted from some other state or country and said statute has previously been construed by the courts of such state or country, the statute is deemed to have been adopted with the construction given.

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