By Hannah Torregoza
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Department of Health (DOH) should immediately reassess and amend the implementing rules and regulations on the Universal Health Care (UHC) law following President Duterte’s directive to make premium payments for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) voluntary, Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Tuesday.
Hontiveros said both PhilHealth and DOH should be cautious in the implementation of the law amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Both institutions, she said, should consult OFWs who are some of the most vulnerable sectors affected by the global health crisis.
The senator said PhilHealth’s Circular No. 2019-0009, which seeks to increase the premium rate for direct contributors, in which OFWs are included, from 2.75 percent of monthly salaries to 3 percent is a huge burden for migrant workers given the current COVID-19 crisis.
“Marami sa ating mga OFWs at kanilang pamilya ay kabilang sa mahihirap at bulnerableng sektor bago pa man ang krisis sa COVID-19, (Many of our OFWs and families are already included in the vulnerable sector even before the COVID-19 crisis),” Hontiveros said.
“Dapat magkaroon ng sapat na konsultasyon sa kanila. Dapat may kinatawan sa bawat uri ng overseas work kasi hindi naman pare-pareho ang sitwasyon nila. At dapat isama sila sa pag-dedesisyon ng panukalang ito (There must be sufficient consultation with them. Each overseas work should be well-represented because their situation differs. They should be made part of the decision-making),” she also recommended.
Hontiveros also called on the congressional oversight committee on the UHC law to convene as soon as possible so concerns aired by the OFWs can be addressed immediately.
“This should not stop us from pursuing better implementation of this landmark law. These are birth pains that need to be addressed to benefit everybody,” she said.
She said this is why the government should review the implementation of the UHC and the current benefits package and delivery being provided by the PhilHealth especially to OFWs.
The principle behind the UHC Law, she said, is one that could help millions of Filipinos in the long term, thus, “it’s proper implementation is paramount.”
“We cannot abandon universal healthcare. It is an essential piece of legislation that at the end of the day, if implemented properly, will provide healthcare to all Filipinos,” she added.