Studies needed as solons weigh in on OFW premium payments proposals

Published June 16, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

House Committee on Health chairperson, Quezon 4th district Rep. Angelina Tan wants numbers-backed studies to support proposals on how the government should enforce the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) payment of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs).

Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)

“After what transpired today and after hearing the points raised by all our resource persons, I would like to propose that we ask PhilHealth and DOH (Department of Health) to look into the proposals with regard to the premium payments,” Tan said Tuesday night during the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on the Universal Health Care (UHC) law.

Tan sits as co-chairman of the joint panel, with Senator Christopher “Bong” Go serving as her Senate counterpart. Invited during the virtual hearing were officials from PhilHealth, DOH, and representatives from several OFW groups.

“Kanina po, nabanggit na yung mga OFWs may kanya-kanya silang proposals. Yung iba magkakapareho,mayroon pagkakaiba (We heard the OFWs give their respective proposals. Some were similar, while some differed).

“May we ask that they come up with the necessary actuarial study? Kasi gusto po natin din na yung ating recommendation or whatever solution to the call of OFWs or other sectors ay mag-base po tayo sa actuarial study (We want our recommendations or whatever solution to the call of OFWs or other sectors to be based on an actuarial study),” she said.

“Actuarial science” is the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risks in insurance, finance, and other industries and professions.

Among the major takeaways during the seven-hour virtual hearing was PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales’s recommendation against making permanent the current voluntary payment of premiums among OFWs, saying it will financially debilitate the state health insurer.

President Duterte last month directed PhilHealth to make the contributions of the OFWs voluntary after they protested the agency’s rate hike as far as premiums are concerned.

A PhilHealth memorandum circular had required OFWs to to pay three percent of their monthly salaries this year, an uptick from 2019’s rate of 2.75 percent.

During the hearing, at least one OFW group expressed willingness to observe mandatory payment of premiums but requested that a single payment be allowed to cover both spouses in the family as a way to ease financial burden especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Tan later suggested to Go that a “core group” be formed from the House and Senate contingents to tackle the varying proposals.

“If I may propose, Mr. Chair, that we create a core group from our offices and the members’ offices with DOH and PhilHealth to look into the matter and sit down together and discuss. So that we’ll come up with a sound solution to this matter,” she said.

Morales bared that as of April 30, 2020, PhilHealth’s benefit expenses had outpaced the agency’s premium collections by over P5 billion.
“We have a benefit expense of P52.5 billion and we have collected a total premium income of P46.5 billion. In other words, we are spending 13 centavos more per peso than we collect as premium collection,” he said.

Tan said there is a need to discuss the financial state of PhilHealth in another joint oversight hearing. “We [will] invite DBM (Department of Budget and Management), DOF (Department of Finance), and other concerned agencies.”

The medical doctor-turned-congresswoman said that problems with PhilHealth’s funding of services especially in connection with the UHC law require “deeper study.”