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PhilHealth premium contributions increase for OFWs now voluntary

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The President’s mandate to increase the PhilHealth monthly premium contributions for has been made into law, effective for all its members starting this year. However, compared to its previous version where it makes the implementation compulsory, a new order has been made to change it as a ‘voluntary option’ for all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) amidst the national health emergency in the Philippines.

PhilHealth will be requiring contributors to a higher amount of premium for high-wage earners from private corporations and various government agencies. The moratorium for all payments from the previous months is currently in effect until the 30th of May, because the crisis of coronavirus pandemic and the community quarantine averts employees and businesses from working and earning money for a living.

Direct contributors are those who have an active employee-employer relationship on a specific company. This also includes the household & kitchen staff or commonly known as ‘kasambahay’, self-employed, practicing licensed professionals, with the OFWs, belong to this category. This was in line with the PhilHealth’s statement last 2nd of December, 2019.

The circular published last 23rd of November requires an additional 0.25% from the recurring premium rate effective for all direct contributors. From 2.75% taken from the monthly amount of salary before taxes and other deductions for each member, it will now become 3.00% before the end of 2020.

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In addition, an incremental 0.5% will be applied annually until 2025 where it will reach the 5.00% limit as indicated in the Universal Health Care Act (UHC) or also known as the Republic Act No. 11223.

The 2020-0014 circular released last 2nd of April has set a clear measure regarding the new table of premium payments among foreign-based workers, sea-based workers, seafarers, and distressed overseas workers. Filipinos who are currently living overseas especially those who are bearing dual citizenry and other Filipinos based elsewhere. It clears the confusion that angered the OFWs that asks them to pay for the same amount of premium from 2020 until 2025.

This issue has been addressed after large protests from OFWs who experience displacement from their employment due to the same COVID-19 issue in the country where they are currently located. Most OFWs were unable to get most government-funded benefits such as those from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Pag-IBIG Fund, and more. The compulsory membership will burden OFWs even more.

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They pointed out that their respective agencies are responsible for providing health care benefits as part of their contract before they get deployed for employment overseas.

Only 3.6 million OFWs from the 10 million are PhilHealth members so it has come to the attention of the agency to make the new contribution compulsory. PhilHealth has also emphasized that each contribution package includes all the dependents of OFWs based in the Philippines.

More than 200 OFW groups have submitted their position paper to strongly oppose the increase in the premiums led by the largest Migrante International. The joint declaration to disagree with the measure was then supported by the Philippine Overseas Employment Association (POEA) as all OFWs are experiencing challenges from unemployment, recession, and company closures. The Department of Foreign Affairs has also asked PhilHealth to cross out the OFWs from their new program as they are already enrolled in insurance from a private company.

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