Incoming Migrant Workers secretary studying suspension of PhilHealth premium hike

Incoming Migrant Workers secretary studying suspension of PhilHealth premium hike
This file photo shows Hong Kong International Airport
Philstar.com, file

MANILA, Philippines — Susan "Toots" Ople, who President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expected to appoint secretary of the migrant workers department, said they are looking to study the premium hike that will be imposed by state insurer PhilHealth this month despite protests from overseas Filipino workers' groups.

Ople said that they are in talks with Senator-elect JV Ejercito to suspend the increase in mandatory Philippine Health Insurance Corp. contributions.

"Agree kami sa position niya na i-suspend muna and magpasok ng amendments kasi karamihan naman, if not all OFWs may health insurance na dun sa kanilang labor destination countries," Ople told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo’s “Good Job” on Sunday.

(We agree with his position to suspend the premium hikes first and introduce amendments because most, if not all OFWs already have existing health insurance in their labor destination countries.)

Ejercito previously said that he wants to encourage Marcos to suspend rate hikes as much of the population is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Ople said they are also preparing a briefer on the issue for the president-elect.

READ: Ejercito bats for deferred PhilHealth premium hike

PhilHealth is raising its premium contribution rate to 4% from 3% starting this month after suspending hikes for a year and a half.

"Feeling nila sobra naman [‘yung rate hike]… bukod sa redundant, masyadong mabigat ‘yung halaga ‘yung premium, tapos naka-peg pa sa salary, and then may increase pa every year. And then pag hindi ka nakapag-bayad, i-cocompute pa yung compounded interest na penalties mo."

(OFWs feel that the rate hike is too much… aside from it being redundant, the premium is too expensive, and it would also depend on their salary, and there would be an annual increase. And if you are not able to pay, the penalties are subject to compounded interest.)

READ: Why is PhilHealth hiking premium payments in June?

In a statement on May 6, United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-Hong Kong) said that OFWs would have to pay their PhilHealth premium on an annual basis. The mandatory PhilHealth contribution is also required when getting an Overseas Employment Certificate, which OFWs need to be allowed to leave the country.

While Ople mentioned that PhilHealth previously said that OFWs' families can benefit from the coverage, Filipino migrant workers' groups said the money that will be used for contributions could have been given to their families instead. 

"Imposing fees on a population who can ill afford it is undemocratic. Overseas Filipinos budget their salary to the last cent. Imposing more fees will mean a reduction in their family's quality of living," UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Balladares Pelaez said in a statement dated June 1.

Balladares-Pelaez also said OFWs still remember corruption allegations at PhilHealth. The goverment investigated the allegations that officials at the state insurer took P15 billion in PhilHealth funds. After a revamp at PhilHealth and the recommendation of charges against some of its officials, the state ensurer said that most of the money has since been accounted for. — Kaycee Valmonte





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