OFW 'Voluntary' PhilHealth Payment Status Upon Duterte Order Temporary

The "voluntary" status of Overseas Filipino Workers on PhilHealth premium payments upon President Rodrigo Duterte's order is temporary.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said OFW membership is voluntary while there is a Coronavirus pandemic.

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 napakarami sa kanilang nare-repatriate at nawalan ng trabaho. Whether or not tataas po 'yan, well, realidad po na ang isang insurance system ay kinakailangan naka-base sa actuarial science.

MalacaƱang made the announcement after the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation drew the ire of OFWs and netizens.

The tax-exempt, government-owned and controlled corporation recently issued Circular No. 2020-0014 requiring 3% premium payment of OFWs whose monthly income ranged from P10,000 to P60,000. It shall increase by 0.5% annually until it reaches 5% by 2024.

PhilHealth stated that the rate hike was based on the Universal Health Care Law (Republic Act 11223), which was authored by Roque when he was a partylist lawmaker and signed by President Duterte in 2019.

Under this law, OFWs are categorized as "direct contributors" along with professional practitioners, workers that are bound by an "employer-employee relationship," and those that are self-employed.

OFWs around the world slammed PhilHealth and launched a petition on Change.org to scrap the rate increase on their premium payments. Some of them said the state insurer has made OFWs a "milking cow".

In his press briefing, Roque also said PhilHealth payment is no longer a requirement for OFWs to be able to secure an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

This was confirmed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the goverment agency responsible for opening the benefits of the overseas employment program, in its POEA Advisory No. 56 released on May 4, 2020.

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