Amid this infamous pandemic that does not seem to end, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or simply PhilHealth, has issued a memorandum that took effect back on the 22nd of April 2020.
This memorandum provisioned a PhilHealth premium hike for OFWs to have a uniform contribution table based on their income. It was the PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 or more commonly known as the Premium Contribution and Collection of Payment of Overseas Filipino Members.
Before we get to the plea of online workers, let’s first discuss the scope of this change and this hike.
Scope of the change
PhilHealth has said that this circular covers all overseas Filipinos who are either living or working abroad. In addition to that, it also states that OFWs who are currently on vacation; those waiting for documents – whether registered or not to the National Health Insurance Program are included.
Moreover, an initial payment of P2,400 would be needed too, as per the agency.
It had said that OFWs whose incomes fall between P10,000 and P20,000 shall pay at least three (3) percent of their monthly salaries. Moreover, it said that it shall be effective within this year.
The current percentage in which OFWs are to pay is currently at 2.75 percent. It is to go up to 3 percent which is .25% more than last year’s.
Fully payment or quarterly
As stated by the circular, after the determination of the appropriate premium contribution, the member has and holds the option of whether he or she will pay for the annual premium or to pay the initial premium then proceed to pay the quarterly.
- Calendar Year (C.Y.) 2020 is seen as a transition year. Meaning, the payment of P2,400.00 shall serve as the initial payment. Then, the member can pay the balance in full or pay the quarterly. The settlement of the payment period is one (1) year.
- By the 1st of January 2021, the minimum acceptable initial payment is a 3-month premium based on the prescribed rate at the time of payment. Still, though, the member would have the choice to pay the full balance or just quarterly.
If you are worried about the PhilHealth contribution hike for OFWs; what more do our OFWs feel? But who are considered as OFWs?
Let’s take a few steps back and see the OFWs affected from those who are not:
- Land-based OFWs
- Seafarers and sea-based workers
- Dual-citizenship Filipinos (R.A. 9225)
- Overseas Filipinos in distress
- Filipinos who are living abroad; and
- Other overseas Filipinos not previously classified elsewhere
Last Sunday, the worldwide alliance of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Migrante International, said that this is in no way going to help OFWs in their goals to help their families.
Furthermore, they said that some, if not most OFWs are already stressed about some contributions. So why is PhilHealth moving to increase it more for them?
This increase overburdens OFWs who are already troubled by retrenchments and loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. An overwhelming number of OFWs are not even covered by President Duterte’s DOLE-AKAP cash aid program, and repatriated OFWs have been crying out to the government for steady and efficient amelioration.”
Stoppage of the increase
What the organization asked for is to put a stop on the PhilHealth premium hike for the OFWs. Not only that, but the organization also said that the overseas employment certificate (OEC) is to be junked too; as well as to remove the apprehensions or penalties.
Lastly, they said that other than the approved Universal Health Care Law (UHC Law), there should be an improved public health system.
Our opposition to this unjust state exaction will not stop with the petition. Migrante International encourages everyone to join our online protests and creative actions to oppose the Duterte government’s mandatory PhilHealth exaction.”
Politicians on the increase
Other than Migrante International, there were government officials and groups who did not like the news. As a matter of fact, they were calling on to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop this increase from being effective.
Mujiv Hataman, Basilan Representative and the House Deputy Speaker called out to our dearest President. What he wanted was for the President to withdraw this circular; he also said that it would be helpful to provide some type of relief for our “modern-day heroes.”
Nananawagan ako sa ating Pangulo na pigilin ang implementasyon ng pagtaas [ng] singil ng PhilHealth sa mga OFWs. At a time when even verbal orders from him are heeded, a mere pronouncement from him can temporarily stop the collection of fees. I think we are all in agreement that now is not the right time to impose that particular provision of the UHC (Universal Healthcare) Law. Ceasefire muna sa bagong singil.”
In Translation: I am calling out for our President to somehow ease or stop this implementation. At a time when even verbal orders from him are heeded, a mere pronouncement from him can temporarily stop the collection of fees. I think we are all in agreement that now is not the right time to impose that particular provision of the UHC Law. Let us call on a ceasefire on that.
Moratorium on all fees
Hataman said that the Philippine government shall provide a moratorium on all fees. Akin to how our local workers and employees are treated, they must get some type of assistance, too.
He adds that because of the COVID-19 threat, they are rightful to receive and to have the same assistance; not by increasing their contribution premiums.
Dapat nga, moratorium sa pagbabayad ang ginagawa ng gobyerno dahil sa krisis na dulot ng COVID-19 sa lahat ng tao saan mang bahagi ng mundo. Dapat ay tinutulungan natin ang mga OFWs at hindi pinahihirapan.”
In Translation: It should be a moratorium on payments because of the impact COVID-19 has on us; not just with our local workers, but Filipino workers in other countries and nations as well. We should be helping our OFWs instead of making things more difficult for them.
Of no benefit to OFWs
Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); also said that this would not be, in any way, be of benefit to OFWs. In his tweet, he said that this is some type of income tax for OFWs.
It is like an income tax which was abolished for OFWs and even their tax-free income filings were destroyed. They are just totally out of the purview of government exactions for which they will not benefit at all. https://t.co/NrNYGsUMt1
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 3, 2020
It is like an income tax which was abolished for OFWs; and [now], even their tax-free income filings were destroyed. They are just totally out of the purview of government exactions for which they will not benefit at all.”
A petition to end the PhilHealth premium hike for OFWs has been made. As of writing, there are over 361,975 signatures to help put an end to the movement or to withdraw the circular.
You can access the petition here.
Therefore, people are against the circular that would increase PhilHealth premium hike for OFWs; even some government officials are not in favor of it. They’re seeing it as something that could put more pressure and burden to OFWs on way or another.