Duterte orders PhilHealth premium payment ‘voluntary’ for migrant workers


By Staff Report

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has given a directive to the National Health Insurance Program (PhilHealth) to make the payment of premiums for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) voluntary as many of them still grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 20,000 Filipinos migrants have been already repatriated after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

PhilHealth was established by the Philippine government to provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all Filipinos.

Its recently issued circular which increases the mandatory premium payments for Filipino migrant workers starting this year, has solicited an adverse reaction among Filipino migrant worker communities and labour groups.

In the circular, PhilHealth requires OFWs to remit 3% of their annual salaries to PhilHealth, up from last year’s 2.75% rate. It further explained that by 2021, the monthly contribution will increase to 3.5% and subsequent increases will take effect annually until the amount hits its 5% ceiling limit by 2024.

The circular explained that the increase was included in the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, which Mr. Duterte signed into law on February 20 last year.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing Monday (May 04), said in Filipino, that the President has issued a directive to PhilHealth to make OFWs’ payment of premiums to be voluntary for now.

“Accordingly, Department of Health Secretary Duque has announced the suspension of Item 10 2 (c) of the implementing rules and regulations of the universal health care that imposes a higher contribution rate while we are still dealing with the COVID-19 crisis,” added Roque.

Meanwhile, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation President and CEO Ricardo Morales said in a separate press briefing that the agency is looking at a longer payment period as well as optional contribution schemes following backlash on the collection of health insurance premiums amid the COVID-19 crisis. (ham/RightsCorridor)