PhilHealth’s 3% mandatory pay hike amid global pandemic draws public ire

Marje Pelayo   •   May 4, 2020   •   495

MANILA, Philippines — State insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on April 22 reminded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) of the mandatory premium rate hike for this year.

But the announcement sparked outrage especially from “modern day heroes” who slammed the rate adjustment as a form of injustice at this time of a global health pandemic.

More than 300,000 have signed an online petition against it.

“Hindi po ako payag. Panibagong pabigat naman po sa amin. Sana po ay magkaroon ng option at hindi po mandatory,” said Marlon Sarguet, an OFW in Australia.

Alfred Busa argued that they also pay health insurance abroad but not as high as three percent and they are able to enjoy its benefits.

“Sa health insurance na iyon ng Taiwan, kumbaga mararamdaman mo talaga ang hinuhulugan mo, pero hindi siya ganun kalaki,” he said.

“I support universal healthcare, but this is nuts. Absolutely nuts. I seriously wonder how they’re going to enforce this on all overseas Filipinos. What are they going to do? Bar me from leaving the country unless I pay up?” wrote Josh Lim, an OFW in the US.

“Definitely bad legislating on the part of Congress and/or bad rule-making on the part of PhilHealth,” he added.

Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin slammed Philhealth, telling the agency to ‘leave the OFWs alone’ as the payment does not even benefit them .

Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo, one of the original proponents of the Universal Health Care Law, meanwhile, expressed support for the OFWs’ call for a moratorium on the premium rate hike and explained that the Law actually provides benefits to contributors including OFWs.

“I support our OFW’s call for a moratorium on the increase of Philhealth premiums in light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Finally, it is worthy to note that the UHC Law provides that those who are directly contributing premiums should be given better health coverage,” he noted adding that member contributions also benefit Filipinos who are not able to pay for medical services.

What OFWs need to know about the new premium rate hike

The state insurer on April 22 published on its social media page details of the law which explains the mandatory premium rate hike for OFWs starting this year.

PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014, first announced in December 2019, states that all overseas Filipinos including their dependents living and working abroad must remit 3% of their monthly monthly salary to the agency, an increase from last year’s 2.7%.

The law covers overseas Filipinos working and living abroad including their dependents, even those who are on-vacation or are still waiting for documentation, registered on not with the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP). 

By overseas Filipinos mean:

  • Land-based OFWs
  • Seafarers and other sea-based workers
  • Filipinos with dual citizenship (RA 9225)
  • Filipinos living abroad
  • Overseas Filipinos in distress
  • Other overseas Filipinos not previously classified elsewhere
No photo description available.

It’s a tiered payment computation which gradually increases each year starting from 2019 to 2025:

  • 2019 – 2.5%
  • 2020 – 3%
  • 2021 – 3.5%
  • 2022 – 4%
  • 2023 – 4.5
  • 2024 and 2025 – 5%

Based on PhilHealth’s computation, OFWs who earn monthly salary of P10,000 will have to pay P630 each month or P7,400 for the whole year while those who receive P60,000 a month will have to pay P1,800 each month or P21,000 for the whole year.

Since 2020 is the transition period, an OFW will have to pay an initial amount of P2,400 then he or she may opt to pay the remaining balance in full or in quarterly payments. 

By 2021, the initial payment will be 3 months of the OFWs salary and the remaining amount may be paid in full or in quarterly installments.

An OFW may opt to pay in full for one year or by quarterly installments.

Payment mode for sea based OFWs must be made monthly through salary deductions by their manning agency or employers. 

All overseas Filipinos are required to submit proof of actual income to which PhilHealth will compute the monthly premium contribution.

Missed contributions beyond the due date must be paid with monthly compounded interests. 

The new measure takes effect on May 5,  that’s 15 days after its publication in a major newspaper on April 22. 

PRC’s decision to stop swab testing affects returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III admits that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to stop conducting swab tests due to PhilHealth’s unsettled bills with them have greatly affected the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

PhilHealth’s outstanding bill with PRC has already amounted to P930-billion.

Bello said around 4,000 overseas Filipino workers have been stranded in the quarantine hotels they are currently billeted. And the longer they stay in these hotels, the greater the burden on the government that is shouldering the expenses in these hotels.

In the past, the DOLE had been able to send home up to 3,000 OFWs daily after undergoing swab tests and quarantine. To date, it can only send home around 300 OFWs every day.

“They are staying longer. While before they can stay for 3 to four days, now they already stay beyond one week and that’s our problem. There are expenses in taking care of our OFWs. So the sooner the issue of payment is resolved, the better for the OFWs and the better for the finances of our government,” Bello said.

The DOLE chief is hoping that the PhilHealth-PRC issue will be resolved as around 100,000 more OFWs are due to be repatriated before the year ends.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is asking the returning OFWs for their cooperation and patience for the delay of the issuance of result of their swab tests.

PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said they have returned to manually encoding the information of these returning OFWs.

“So pagdating po sa airport, katulad ng dati, imbis na CIF po na pinifill-upan bago po dumating dito na sa website ng red cross, e ngayon po iniinterview namin isa-isa yung mga OFW at kinukunan ng background. At pagkatapos po nun, kinukunan ng swab test, maging yun pong dati na mga specimen po ay nilalagyan na rin ng manual na pangalan at kung kelan na swab di katulad ng dati na bar code,” said Balilo.

This, Balilo said, is why it is taking the process up to four to five days rather than finishing it in just one day following PRC’s decision.

Despite this, Balilo said there are now 12 hospitals that will accept and process the RT-PCR tests of OFWs.

“Magiging capacity po sa isang araw po kaya po ng mga 4,000 hanggang 4,500 po na iti-test,” he said.

Balilo added that the PCG will augment its personnel to lessen the delay due to the manual encoding.

The official also said they are finding ways to return to automation or electronic process encoding of individual information.

“On our part, nagpadala na po kami ng mga tauhan ng mga IT personnel para po magaya natin kung ano man ang sistema na pina-iiral ng Red Cross at sa loob po ng lalong madaling panahon ay maresolba natin itong delay,” Balilo said.

Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PhilHealth assures all COVID-19 tests formerly handled by PRC will be processed

Marje Pelayo   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said its agreement with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) concerning provisions on the conduct of COVID-19 testing is currently under review.

This is the reason why the state insurer was not able to immediately settle its arrears with PRC which ballooned to P930-million, PhilHealth Spokesperson Rey Beleña said.

Beleña added that they are now coordinating with various government agencies to help pay PhilHealth’s obligations.

“Patuloy ang aming coordination hindi lang sa Philippine Red Cross kundi siyempre sa mga relevant authorities in government agencies, [We are continously coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross and relevant government agencies],” Beleña said.

“Naghihintay na lamang kami ng kanilang magiging komento para makapag proceed tayo, mabayaran natin yung ating balanse sa Red Cross, [We are just waiting for their comments so we could proceed to paying our balances with Red Cross],” he added.

PhilHealth assured that all COVID-19 tests for returning overseas Filipino workers and frontliners will continue despite PRC’s suspension of its service to them.

All pending specimens formerly handled by PRC will be transferred and distributed to 105 PhilHealth-accredited laboratories for testing, Beleña assured.

“Nakahanda itong mga partners natin na ito na tumanggap ng mga specimen, [Our partners are ready to accept more specimens],” the official said.

“Iyong kanilang gagawing testing, covered iyan ng Philhealth. So wala ring babayaran yung mga kabababayan natin, [The testing that they will administer is also covered by PhilHealth, no fee is needed],” he added.

For its part, the PRC said it will continue to conduct COVID-19 tests of specimens coming from the private sector and local government units (LGUs) provided that the payments are up to date.

PRC has conducted over one million COVID-19 tests, representing 26% of the national test output.

On the other hand, PhilHealth said they have already shelled out a total of P1.6 billion for the more than 433,000 tests conducted by PRC. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Muling ipinapaala ng Philippine Red Cross na bukas pa rin ang mga PRC molecular laboratories upang magtest ng mga…

Posted by Philippine Red Cross on Thursday, 15 October 2020

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