Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos on Sunday urged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to keep his word and work for the permanent abolition of the three-percent premium that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) pay to PhilHealth.
Marcos said Duque should make good on his word in support of the measure during last week’s Senate inquiry into the state health care insurer’s fund anomalies.
“May kasabihan, ‘Kung gusto, maraming paraan; kung ayaw, maraming dahilan’ (It’s been said that if you want something done, you’ll find many ways to get to it; if you don’t, you’ll find many excuses). Let’s stand by our OFWs and finally get this done!” Marcos said.
The senator asserted that PhilHealth can unburden OFWs of the premium deducted from their salaries, by recovering billions lost to leakages in its funds.
She said among the fund leakages that may amount to more than what PhilHealth would collect from the OFW premium, include overpayments of hospital reimbursements for exaggerated illnesses—known as “upcasing,” ghost patients, and board and room charges padded on outpatient cases.
Marcos also noted that PhilHealth has a history of treating OFWs as its “milking cows.”
“With thousands upon thousands of OFWs losing their jobs and facing repatriation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the charges of corruption hounding PhilHealth, the three-percent premium should no longer be re-imposed,” the lawmaker stressed.
Eariler, President Duterte suspended the collection of the three-percent premium last May and made it voluntary after OFWs protested the increase from the previous 2.75 percent rate.
“It’s practically extortion. All OFWs are held hostage from taking up their jobs abroad because they cannot get an overseas employment certificate unless they make an advance payment to PhilHealth,” Marcos pointed out.
She also noted that PhilHealth did not offer OFWs any other benefit in their succeeding contributions. The state health insurer also failed to consider that hospitals in the host countries of these OFWs follow a different health care program and do not count on PhilHealth reimbursements.