Philhealth defends premium hike for migrant workers


THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Tuesday said that the premium adjustment for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is appropriate and has been decided upon with the best interest of overseas workers and their families.

The move, which is contained in its Circular 25, s-2013, adjusts the contribution rate from P1,200 to 2, 400 annually starting January next year to rationalize its contribution structure with the rest of members from different categories. This means that Philhealth members will have to pay P1, 200 more on annual contributions starting next year.

Last year, the state-run health insurance agency has also implemented a 200 percent increase in premiums of individually paying members from P1, 200 to P1, 800 – a P600 increase per year, or P50 increase per month.

The PhilHealth law provides that there shall be no contribution rate that is lower than those being paid for indigent members, which is now pegged at P2, 400.

“With such gainful employment status of OFWs, it is but proper that their premium rate should at least approximate those with the indigents,” Chona Yap, PhilHealth Manager for Overseas Filipino Program, said.

The agency has also pegged the contribution for its informal sector members at P2, 400 for those earning below P25, 000 per month. For those with monthly income of above P25, 000, the rate is at P3, 600.

“The new rate for OFWs translates to just P6.70 per day, which clearly shows that they are still paying a very minimal amount and is comparable to indigents and informal sector members such as vendors, public transport workers, and the like”, Yap explained.

PhilHealth further explained that the move has been openly discussed for years now with key stakeholders, especially migrant worker groups.

“We have actively brought the issue with all players and affected sectors and even decided to phase-in its implementation starting this year in response to their calls for deferment,” Yap further explained.

The PhilHealth also said that premium adjustments are called for to be able to sustain and continuously improve the level of financial protection being afforded its members.

In the last three years alone, it enhanced its benefits and introduced substantial payments for medically catastrophic and economically draining procedures under its Z Package which include childhood leukemia, heart surgeries, kidney transplants, lower limb prosthesis, among others, without increasing its premium rates.

The agency is also moving towards shifting its payment mechanism from the traditional fee-for-service (payment per unit of service rendered) to case-based in order to contain costs, rationalize services, and ensure adequate care.

For his part, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Alexander Padilla said that the agency is expecting benefit payouts for 2013 to reach P62 billion, citing the increase in benefits as well as the expanding population coverage.

Padilla also noted that over 2, 400 indigent and underprivileged families have received free healthcare benefits from the agency under the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, a subsidy from the national government which aims to expand accessible healthcare services to poor communities.

In 2013, the agency received P12 billion subsidy from the national government.

“For this year alone, more than 5.2 million poor families nationwide have benefitted the free healthcare service,” Padilla said.

For 2014, the national government has earmarked PP35.3 billion for the 14. 7 million families, Padilla said.

“These [budgets]all go to the benefit of the people, not reserves for the Philhealth employees,” Padilla explained.

Meanwhile, the militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also on Tuesday stormed the Philhealth head office in Pasig City to denounce the hike premium contributions for migrant workers amid crackdown of OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

“The Philhealth premium hike is a grave injustice to our migrant workers. With all callousness, the Aquino administration still wants to squeeze out more from our OFWs after abandoning and allowing them to be abused, exploited, hunted like criminals and execute abroad,” Roger Soluta, the group’s secretary general, said.

“It is enraging that we workers are being obliged to pay more for services we don’t actually receive. It is the Aquino government’s policy to spending less on basic social services like healthcare and just to realign the budget to debt servicing and to their pork barrel funds,” he added. NEIL A. ALCOBER


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