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Makabayan legislators file bill to make PhilHealth payments voluntary for OFs

07 May 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
Makabayan legislators on an online press conference today

Members of the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives have filed a bill pushing for voluntary membership in PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Co) for all overseas Filipinos.

House Bill No 6698 filed today, May 7, said President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal order suspending the implementation of the mandatory collection of PhilHealth contribution from OFWs is merely a temporary relief.

“Suspending the PhilHealth premium increase only temporarily relives the overseas Filipinos of the additional burden. There is a need to truly unburden the overseas Filipinos by allowing voluntary membership, removing the “double” payment, compounded interest for unpaid premium, and unjust premium increases by amending certain provisions of the Universal Health Care Law," said the bill.
Those who signed the motion were Bayan Muna Representatives Ferdinand Gaite, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Party-List Rep. Sarah Elago.

Two days earlier, the group also filed House Bill No 00827 directing the House Committee on Health to conduct an urgent review of RA 11223, saying there is no need for PhilHealth to raise its premiums.

“PhilHealth should not be allowed to impose a premium rate hike, considering that it has Php97 billion reserve funds and net income of Php11.6 billion in 2018, not to mention its investment portfolio at Php149 billion,” said the resolution.
Duterte froze the forced collection of PhilHealth fees on May 4, after more than 500,000 OFWs all over the world signed two online petitions denouncing the new exaction.

His spokesman, Harry Roque, said payment by OFWs would be on voluntary basis while the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Sa ngayon po, habang meron tayong krisis, ang naging desisyon ng Presidente, huwag na muna tayong magpataw ng karagdagang pahirap sa ating mga OFWs, lalong lalo na sa panahon na napakadami sa kanila ang nare-repatriate at nawalan na rin ng trabaho,” Roque said.
Migrants groups, especially those in Hong Kong which have been protesting against the mandatory collection since the start of the year, are not appeased. They say the order does not carry much weight as it was issued only verbally, and because it is not enough to invalidate a law that the president himself signed.

The mandatory collection of premiums from OFWs is part of Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Healthcare Act, which is meant to provide free health care to all Filipinos, including the indigents.
R.A. 11223's last page showing Duterte's signature
The measure was signed into law by President Duterte on Feb 20, 2019. Subsequently, its Implementing Rules and Regulations was signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and became effective on Dec 10, 2019 or 15 days after its publication.

The scheme is mainly funded by direct government subsidy, a budget allocation from the Department of Health, proceeds from the so-called sin tax, 50% of net income of the Philippine Games and Amusement Corporation (Pagcor) and 40% of incomes from the Charity Fund and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

On top of this, the law expanded PhilHealth’s membership to include migrant workers. In the IRR, even Filipino residents abroad or those holding dual citizenship were included in the list of contributors. The IRR also tied the collection of premiums from OFWs to the overseas employment certificate, which they need to exit the Philippines.

As direct contributors, OFWs are made to pay both the employer’s and the employee’s share. And for 2020, this amounts to 3% of the income of those earning between P10,000 and Php60,000 per month.

The rate increases by half a percentage per year, until it reaches 5% in 2024, with the income ceiling raised to Php100,000.
OFWs as direct contributors must pay PhilHealth premium based on this table

Previously, OFWs who were PhilHealth members, paid only Php2,400 a year.

For a Filipino domestic worker who earns the minimum wage in Hong Kong, the new fees means premium payment going up to Php10,800 a year, or a four-fold increase.

Those who make the ceiling income of Php60,000 will be paying twice that amount, of Php21,600.

The worldwide migrant organization Migrante International, welcomed the Makabayan bloc’s twin moves to alleviate the impact on OFWs of the mandatory PhilHealth payments.

“We are very grateful to the Makabayan bloc in Congress for raising the collective sentiments of Filipino migrants against the mandatory Philhealth exaction,” said Migrante chair Joanna Concepcion.

“This was signed and approved by President Duterte himself and even without the scourge of the COVID-19 crisis, OFWs will surely oppose this unjust and extortionate law.”


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