OFWs and their advocates deplore new gov’t rules on PhilHealth rate hike

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials signed the new rules on collection and new rates of the state-ran health insurance, Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth),  on  Thursday, only weeks after anomalies at the PhilHealth were exposed.

Under the new rules, the fixed annual premium of P2,400, rate for OFWs regardless of how much annual salary they have, was changed to salary-based rate.

A sample computation shows that if an OFW is earning about P20,000, he or she will have to pay P6,000 next year, which would also increase annually until it reaches about P12,000 in 2024.

Because of this, overseas Filipino worker (OFW) groups and their advocates, former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople and foreign employment specialist Emmanuel Geslani, recently deplored the new government rules that require OFWs to pay their increased health and social protection premiums even before leaving the country to work abroad.

What makes the rules more of a burden to OFWs is that implementing rules and regulations (IRR) order the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to require all OFWs to pay their premiums before overseas employment certificates (OECs) be issued to them according to former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople.

Ople stressed that OECs were meant to be awarded to OFWs who have complied to government-prescribed rules and were not meant to be used as a tool for collection.

She also stressed that OFWs did not receive any salary increase for more than a decade, hence, the increased rate in their health protection premiums is not justifiable and requiring them to pay even before they are dispatched to work abroad is inconsiderate.

Ople said that this is an unjust imposition and would worsen their vulnerable status and work conditions.  Relatively, another OFW advocate,  foreign employment specialist Emmanuel Geslani, asked how could the government impose an increased PhilHealth premiums to OFWs even before leaving the country to work abroad when they have yet to earn anything.

The new rules also now require that OFWs submit an “acceptable proof of actual income” so that they may be given the correct  computation of annual premiums.  Failure to comply with the requirement means that they will be charged with the rate based on the income ceiling.

Ople and Geslani support the importance of health and social protection, however, they underscored that the rates should not be “astronomical” posing burden to workers.

Source: Global Nation Inquirer

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