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What suspension? This OFW says she was still charged 3% for PhilHealth

16 May 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap


Danlag's post shows her PhilHealth bill for 2020 is Php10,916.94, based on her estimated salary of over Php30k  

An overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong has posted angrily about being charged 3% of her monthly salary by Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), despite reports that President Rodrigo Duterte had already suspended the collection of the mandatory fee.

Joanne Danlag’s hard-hitting post on May 8 earned the ire of diehard supporters of the president, but she is undaunted.

In her first post, Danlag said: “Attention, PhilHealth. Mukhang tuwang-tuwa kayo sa pamemera sa aming mga OFWs ah. Akala ko ba binawi na ni Duterte ang batas na 3%  na yan, bakit ngayong araw na magbabayad ako meron pa pala yan?

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Aba e, mas maigi na magsiuwian na lang kaming lahat para hindi kami ang magbabayad ng utang ninyo. Ang laki ng yearly (premium) ko, umabot pa halos kalahating sahod ko. O di kayo na!!! Kayo na ang kurakot, salot kayo sa aming mga naghihirap dito sa ibang bansa. Binawi na ng gobyerno, hindi ninyo sinunod.”

Danlag had based her assumption on an announcement made on May 4 by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque that President Duterte had not only suspended the collection of the jacked-up premium, but also made OFW membership to PhilHealth voluntary.

This was followed by an statement from Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that a certain provision in the law that tied the collection of PhilHealth premium to the overseas employment certificate (OEC) would likewise be suspended.
But both officials made it clear that the suspension was only in effect during the pandemic, as many OFWs had either lost their jobs or suffered severe financial losses because of travel-related restrictions.

PhilHealth's website does not mention the so-called suspension, and instead re-posted on May 4 a statement explaining the need to collect a higher fee from OFWs, and an offer to allow them to pay the premium over one year.

The suspension announcement came after about 500,000 OFWs worldwide called for the halting of the mandatory collection of PhilHealth contributions from them.


500k OFWs have signed a petition calling for the scrapping of mandatory PhilHealth contribution

Dolores Balladares, co-founder of the Rise Against Government Exactions (Rage), which has been protesting the PhilHealth fee increase since January, said Danlag’s experience showed there really was no suspension order from Malacanang.

“So ibig sabihin, kalokohan ang suspension. Talagang nais lang ni Duque na pahupain ang galit ng mga OFWs, gaya ng sinabi ni Duterte na voluntary na ang membership sa PhilHealth,” she said.

“Hindi talaga puwedeng panghawakan ang mga salita ng PhilHealth at ni Duterte. Huwag na silang manloko. Dapat maglabas ng written announcement ang PhilHealth na suspended ang collection. Akala nila porke pumayapa ay tapos na ang protesta? Tuloy-tuloy lang ang protesta.”

She said the law itself must be amended to ensure that no mandatory collection is made because even the President has no power to overrule its provisions.

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Danlag’s post primarily targeted the PhilHealth staff in her hometown of Ozamis City in southern Philippines, where she had sent a sister to pay her annual premium. She said she sent only enough money to cover the old fee of Php2,400, after hearing about the supposed suspension.

But staff at the PhilHealth office told her sister that Danlag would have to pay 3% of her monthly pay, as mandated by law. They demanded to get a copy of her contract, and using that as basis, computed her annual contribution at Php10,916.94, or 4.5 times the fee she had been paying for the past six years.

Danlag was enraged, and refused to pay.


Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.
In a subsequent post, she said: “Bakit kami???? Noong naghihirap kami sa paghahanap ng trabaho papunta dito nasaan ba ang gobyerno na yan? Hindi niyo kami tinulunganHindi ninyo maipakulong ang mga agencies na naniningil ng overprice. Halos isandaan libo papunta dito. Tapos ngayon na alam ninyong kumikita kami saka ninyo naman kami gipitin. Mahiya nga kayo. Hindi ninyo alam ang sitwasyon naming dito sa ibang bansa. Puyat, pagod, sigawan pa kami ng mga amo namin, batuhin pa kami ng ano-ano. Halos ikamatay na ng iba, saka lang kayo mag rescue kung nasa kabaong na ang kabayan namin…”

As a result of her posts, Danlag said she received a lot of messages telling her to shut up, that she was not telling the truth, but that if true, she was dumb for paying up when the President had already suspended the collection of the new fee, and many other negative comments.

Many bashers even claimed she was faking her story, citing the date indicated above the receipt, which was between May 2018-May 2019. However, it is clearly stated there that it was for "last payment," a fact the bashers chose to ignore.

One claiming to be a staff member of PhilHealth in Ozamiz had reportedly urged her to take down her post, saying she had endangered their jobs, but Danlag refused to bite.

“Ni hindi naman tunay na pangalan ang ginagamit, malay ko ba kung totoo ang sinasabi niya?,” a defiant Danlag said.
Danlag

She also said she did not pay the 3% charged her in Ozamis, but decided to remit her payment from Hong Kong, where collecting agents still charge the old fee.

At least one Duterte supporter befriended her, and convinced her that she could just wait awhile before paying her premium because the president would surely make good on his promise.

However, the Duterte leader also made her believe that the president signed only the general provisions of the law, which did not mandate PhilHealth membership for OFWs.

This is far from the truth. Under section 4 (f) of R.A. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, which President Duterte signed into law on Feb 20, 2019, OFWs were included in the list of “direct contributors” to PhilHealth for the first time. (https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/downloads/2019/02feb/20190220-RA-11223-RRD.pdf_)

This means, too, that OFWs will be made to pay double contributions, meaning they pay both the employee and the employer’s shares. In the Philippines, all employed members pay only half the monthly contribution, while their employers pay the other half.

Thus, the higher the salary of an OFW, the higher the contribution will be. For 2020, the maximum payable for a worker earning at least Php60,000 a month is Php21,600 for one year. By 2024, this would go up to Php36,000 a year.

The law became enforceable on Dec 7 last year, 15 days after the publication of its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) which was signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales.

The IRR went a step further, by tying the mandatory collection of PhilHealth contribution to the issuance of the OECs.

However, a statement issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration on May 4, clarified that it never agreed to any such tie-up, and that it was abiding by the president's suspension order. That means, PhilHealth will  now have to find another way to enforce collection from OFWs.
POEA says it never agreed to link the OEC to PhilHealth premium payments

Danlag clarified that she believes in health insurance, even while knowing her PhilHealth coverage doesn’t really go far. Last year, she said she went home to have an emergency surgery. Of her hospital bill of Php80,000, she said only Php20,000 was covered by PhilHealth.

But she continues to pay voluntarily as she has a child in the Philippines she wants protected as well. Thus, for the past six years that she has worked as an OFW, she has religiously paid her annual premium.

But with the more than four-fold increase in premium contributions, she said it was unlikely she could afford to continue paying. Giving a big chunk of her salary to the government just wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice of doing backbreaking work, away from her home and loved ones.

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