By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will no longer have to settle their premium contributions to secure their overseas employment certificates (OECs) from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an official from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said.
In a public briefing on Monday, PhilHealth President and CEO Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales said they only coordinate with concerned agencies in registering OFWs before they leave the country, and are not the agency assigned to process the OECs.
OECs are documents that Filipinos abroad present to officials to prove that they are OFWs registered with the POEA.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday confirmed that President Duterte ordered PhilHealth to suspend the collection of the increased premium rates from OFWs.
Roque said all contributions of OFWs to PhilHealth will be “voluntary.”
The move came after the state-owned agency drew flak from thousands of Filipinos online, along with some government officials, for implementing a raise in the premium contribution of OFWs
With this, Filipinos abroad who are earning between P10,000 to P20,000 are required to pay premiums of three percent of their annual salaries, from only 2.75 percent in 2019. The premium rate will continue to increase until it reaches five percent in 2024.
They will also have to pay an initial amount of P2,400.
An online petition calling for the recall of the order has garnered over 300,000 signatures as of writing.
Following the uproar, Morales said they will be adopting a flexible payment scheme that will allow OFWs to pay their contributions within the year.
“As an agency of government, sensitive to the welfare and well-being of all Filipinos, PhilHealth commits to continue exploring means to soften and alleviate the impact of premium rate increase, but it cannot change the law,” he said in a statement.
The PhilHealth official said the collection from the 0.25-percent premium rate increase will be used to fund Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act of 2019, that aims to provide affordable healthcare to Filipinos.
He also said they are planning to increase and expand benefit coverage under the Universal Health Care Act.
“This is the fundamental basis for the premium increase. These ambitious health goals must be supported by adequate funding collected through increased premium rates,” his statement read.
Morales said last year, PhilHealth collected P1.02 billion from OFWs. In the same year, Filipinos abroad and their families claimed P1.7 billion in benefits with 69 percent attributed to their dependents in the Philippines and the other 31 percent claimed overseas.
The PhilHealth official said they are only waiting for specific instructions from Malacañang before proceeding.