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Unifil decries mandatory, punitive Philhealth payments imposed on OFWs

04 January 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

PhilHealth graphic shows premiums going up to 5% of monthly income in 5 years

The dreaded increase in mandatory premiums for PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance) officially took effect on December 7 last year, and it turned out to be much higher than what Filipino overseas workers had expected. Worse, all OFWs are now compelled to pay for it.

A Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong who earns the minimum wage of HK$4,360 a month (or Php30,095), for example, is now required to pay Php900 per month, or Php10,800 each year.
The premiums will be higher for those earning more, because the mandatory contribution for this year is pegged at 3% of the worker’s monthly salary, in line with Republic Act 11223 or the so-called Universal Health Care Act.

The monthly premiums will gradually increase through the next few years, until the 5% level is reached by the years 2024-2025. This means an OFW in HK will be paying at least Php1,500 a month (or Php18,000 a year) by then.

Previously, OFWs were not compelled to pay for PhilHealth, so most of those who found a need to secure health insurance for their family members in the Philippines only paid the minimum premium of Php2,400 a year or Php200 a month.

Unifil kicks off a new round of signature campaign against the hiked PhilHeatlh fees and other govt charges

Without prior notice or clear guidelines being relayed to OFWs about the new law, which provides for health insurance for all Filipinos but passes on the financial burden to contributors, the impact of the new compulsory fee is now just being felt.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong) has immediately slammed the new mandatory fee as another ploy by the Philippine government to squeeze OFWs.
Balladares-Pelaez says the mandatory fees punishes not just the OFWs but also their families
“It is bleeding us dry,” said Unifil’s chair Dolores Balladares-Pelaez in a statement issued on Jan. 3.

“This is a huge amount of money we can supposedly send to our families for their daily needs, but this will never happen because PhilHealth is mandatory for all OFWs now,” she said.
According to the statement, newly hired OFWs are now being required to pay Php2,400 upfront prior to their deployment abroad, and the balance must be paid in full “after six months or in the next two quarters.”
Those who don’t pay on time will be charged an interest of 1.5% for every month of missed contributions. However, it is not clear how OFWs who are already abroad could be compelled to pay for PhilHealth, which has no offices in any government post abroad.

Pelaez said that in the same way that the Duterte government had issued a “kill, kill, kill” order against mere drug suspects and human rights defenders, it is now killing families of OFWs through various state exactions.

She also decried that instead of setting aside funds to back up his promise of universal health care for Filipinos, President Rodrigo Duterte merely passed on the financial burden to OFWs.

“The solution of Philippine government to the long clamor of Filipinos for accessible health care and to stop the exodus of Filipino medical practitioners is to intensify government exaction from OFWs instead of allocating sustainable budget for health services and curbing corruption in the government,” she said.

Unifil is a founder of the Rise Against State Exactions (Rage) coalition in Hong Kong, which has been waging a strident campaign against various compulsory fees collected from OFWs, including for SSS, OWWA, mandatory insurance, and PhilHealth.

The group has vowed to continue fighting for what it calls as unjust and inhumane government exactions on OFWs.

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