OFWs slam imminent PhilHealth premium increase

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The rate of PhilHealth premiums will continue to increase in the next five years (Screenshot of the IRR of the Universal Health Care Act)


The United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante HK) yesterday (October 17) slammed the imminent increase in mandatory PhilHealth premiums that could see Filipino domestic workers in HK paying more than P10,000 starting next year.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, UNIFIL-Migrante-Hk chair, said the current political crisis in Hong Kong was already weighing down on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the city and this could be “aggravated by the looming PhilHealth mandatory extortion.”

‘Instead of providing health care protection to OFWs who are suffering from severe afflictions due to their slave-like working conditions, insufficient food, and other stressful factors, the Duterte government remains apathetic to our plight by imposing more mandatory monetary responsibilities,’ Balladares-Pelaez said.

She also deplored the government decision making Philhealth payments a requirement for the release of overseas employment certificates (OECs).

Balladares-Pelaez issued the statement after the implementing rules and guidelines (IRR) of the new Universal Health Care (UHC) Act were signed on October 10 in Manila.

Under the IRR, the fixed annual rate of P2,400 for OFWs will be replaced with an annual amount depending on the basic salary they receive.

For 2019, the IRR set the PhilHealth premium rate at 2.75 percent, 3 percent next year, until it reaches 5 percent in 2024.

The minimum allowable wage for foreign domestic workers in HK is $4,630 (around P30,000).

This would mean a Filipino domestic worker receiving that basic salary of P30,000 would have to pay a premium of P9,900 (P30,000 x .0275 x 12 months) this year, P10,800 (P30,000 x .03 x 12) next year, and P18,000 (P30,000 x .05 x 12) by 2024.

“The premium contribution (of OFWs) shall be salary-based as prescribed by the Act and shall require submission of acceptable proof of actual income,” according to the IRR.

“Non-submission of acceptable proof of actual income shall result in the charging of the rate based on the income ceiling,” it added.

The IRR also said that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) shall ensure that “land-based overseas Filipino workers, whether new hires or returning (balik-manggagawa), pay their PhilHealth premiums prior to issuance of the Overseas Employment Certificate.”

“It added that specific guidelines shall be issued by the POEA and PhilHealth.

“Once again, Duterte shows how anti-OFWs he is. He doesn’t care where we get the money to pay for these exorbitant fees; what matters to him is the big collections that his department can get. It is only proper that the Universal Health Care be subsidized by the Department of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s remittances, and shares from sin tax revenues,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“OFWs have long been victimized by government agencies’ money-making schemes and false promises of health care benefits,” she said.

“Enough is enough! We shall struggle against Duterte’s PhilHealth and other mandatory state exaction and all other forms of abuses and exploitation,” she added.

PhilHealth president Ricardo C. Morales defended the increase, saying that it should be seen as an “investment in the health” of OFW families.

“The increase is necessary to strengthen our fund’s ability to sustain and expand the benefits for the members.  It should not be seen as an unnecessary expense, but rather an investment in the health of their family,” he said.