Make pay­ment of OFW pre­mi­ums vol­un­tary, Duterte or­ders PhilHealth

Published May 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Pres­i­dent Duterte has or­dered the Philip­pine Health In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion (PhilHealth) to make pay­ment of pre­mi­ums vol­un­tary for over­seas Filipino work­ers (OFWs) while the coun­try is fac­ing the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pan­demic which left thou­sands of work­ers dis­placed.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government's efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 4, 2020. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government’s efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 4, 2020. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Harry Roque bared this on Mon­day af­ter ex­as­per­ated OFWs de­cried PhilHealth Cir­cu­lar No. 2020-0014 which re­quires OFWs with an in­come of ₱10,000 to ₱20,000 to pay three per­cent of their monthly salary start­ing 2020, an in­crease from 2.75 per­cent the pre­vi­ous year.

“Nag-is­sue ng di­rek­tiba ang at­ing Pres­i­dente sa PhilHealth para gaw­ing bol­un­taryo po ang pag­babayad ng mga OFWs ng PhilHealth pre­mi­ums (Pres­i­dent Duterte is­sued a di­rec­tive to PhilHealth to make the pay­ment pre­mi­ums vol­un­tary for OFWs,” Roque said in his Mon­day Palace press brief­ing.

“Sa ngayon po ha­bang may­roon tay­ong kri­sis, ang nag­ing de­sisyon ng Pres­i­dente ‘wag na muna tayo mag­pataw ng karagda­gang pahi­rap sa at­ing mga OFWs – la­long-lalo na sa pana­hong marami sa kanila ang nar­erepa­tri­ate at nawalan na rin ng tra­baho (For now, while we are fac­ing a health cri­sis, the Pres­i­dent de­cided not to add to the bur­den of OFWs, espe­cially now that a lot of them were repa­tri­ated and lost their jobs),” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to Roque, Health Sec­re­tary Fran­cisco Duque III has sus­pended un­til the COVID-19 pan­demic is over item 10.2.C of the im­ple­ment­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions (IRR) of the Univer­sal Health Care (UHC) Law, which al­lows the in­crease in the con­tri­bu­tions.

The Philip­pine Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion (POEA) and the Over­seas Work­ers Wel­fare Ad­min­is­tra­tion (OWWA) like­wise an­nounced that they are not re­quir­ing OFWs to pay PhilHealth pre­mi­ums be­fore is­su­ing them the nec­es­sary Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Cer­tifi­cate (OEC) so they can work abroad.

Go ap­peals for PhilHealth mem­bers

Sen­a­tor Christo­pher Lawrence “Bong’’ Go had ear­lier asked PhilHealth to de­ter­mine if the pay­ment by mem­bers of the pre­mium con­tri­bu­tions could be de­layed, in­clud­ing the in­crease in their con­tri­bu­tions.

“I am ap­peal­ing to PhilHealth to amend their Cir­cu­lar wherein the “over­seas Filipinos in dis­tress” are among those re­quired to pay the con­tri­bu­tions. If pos­si­ble, the gov­ern­ment must ex­empt the repa­tri­ated OFWs and those most af­fected by the cri­sis from pay­ing said con­tri­bu­tions be­cause they need help from the gov­ern­ment dur­ing this crit­i­cal time,” he said.

“I am ap­peal­ing that our OFWs be given suf­fi­cient time amid the cur­rent cri­sis. As the say­ing goes, in times of cri­sis, ev­ery sin­gle peso saved counts,” he added.

Not in the law

Roque said col­lect­ing PhilHealth pre­mi­ums from OFWs was not part of the UHC law that he au­thored and was passed in 2017.

“‘Yan po ay nasa im­ple­ment­ing rules and reg­u­la­tion (IRR) para lang po sa kaala­man ng la­hat (That is part of the rules and reg­u­la­tion, for ev­ery­one’s in­for­ma­tion),” he said, adding that he was not con­sulted when the IRR was crafted.

Ev­ery­one will ben­e­fit

The Palace of­fi­cial like­wise as­sured the pub­lic that they will ben­e­fit from PhilHealth even if they are not pay­ing their con­tri­bu­tions.

“Nakasaad po sa batas na at­ing sin­u­long na ka­pag hindi po naka­pag­bayad ng pre­mi­ums, hindi po ‘yan dahi­lan para mawalan ng benepisyo (The law says non-pay­ment of con­tri­bu­tion will not dis­qual­ify any­one from PhilHealth ben­e­fits),” he said.

“So kahit anong mang­yari po, sagot po tayo ng es­tado dahil alin­sunod po ito sa obli­gasyon ng es­tado na mag­bi­gay ng kara­p­atan ng kalusugan sa la­hat ng ma­ma­mayang Pilipino (No mat­ter what hap­pens, the State will take care of us be­cause it is the State’s obli­ga­tion to pro­tect our right to health­care),” he added.

Zero tol­er­ance

Mean­while, Roque said Pres­i­dent Duterte will not tol­er­ate any form of cor­rup­tion in PhilHealth.

“Zero tol­er­ance po ang Pres­i­dente Duterte sa PhilHealth – ang ko­rap­syon sa PhilHealth (The Pres­i­dent has ze­ro­tol­er­ance when it comes to the cor­rup­tion in PhilHealth),” he said.

In June last year, Pres­i­dent Duterte asked PhilHealth board mem­bers to re­sign fol­low­ing re­ports that the agency lost some ₱154 bil­lion to ghost pa­tients and de­liv­er­ies.

“Nak­abin­bin po sa Om­buds­man sa mga kaso at in­aasa­han po natin na ang bagong lid­er­ato ng PhilHealth ay tig­nan na­man at pag-ar­alan ang mga rekla­m­ong to (The cases were filed be­fore the Om­buds­man and we ex­pect the new lead­er­ship of PhilHealth to look at study these com­plaints),” Roque said.

On Mon­day, Roque ac­cused PhilHealth of plan­ning to blame him for re­quir­ing OFWs to pay pre­mi­ums be­cause of his cam­paign to rid

PhilHealth of cor­rupt of­fi­cials whom he claimed were still in the agency. (With a re­port from Mario B. Casayu­ran)