Should PhilHealth fees be made voluntary for OFWs?
MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has directed the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Department of Health (DOH) to discuss the position of the executive department on the clamor of overseas Filipino workers to make PhilHealth contribution voluntary for them, according to Department of Migrant Workers Sec. Susan “Toots” Ople.
In Tuesday’s DMW briefing before the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, Ople told the committee that OFWs are concerned about PhilHealth fees, because they are already covered by the health insurance in the country where they work.
“‘Yung sa PhilHealth po, this was actually discussed kanina sa Cabinet meeting. I informed our President and also the members of the Cabinet that there is this clamor from our OFWs na ma-amend ‘yung Universal Healthcare Act kasi they are already covered by the health insurance of different countries,” Ople said.
“The President directed the DMW and the DOH to discuss the executive position. Sabi nga po niya na it’s understandable that the OFWs feel that way. Kasi may mga countries where the health insurance scheme is actually far better than what we have here,” she added.
Ople said she favors voluntary PhilHealth contribution and coverage for overseas Filipino workers. But OFWs should also consider their dependents in the Philippines, who can benefit from PhilHealth.
“For the DMW, we favor the voluntary arrangement. But sabi nga ni President, DOH and PhilHealth will also weigh in and discuss, kasi may OFWs na may dependents that can also benefit from PhilHealth,” she said.
Committee Chairman Rep. Ron Salo defended the imposition of mandatory PhilHealth fees on OFWs.
“Oftentimes ang nagtatrabaho, wala rito sa Pilipinas, nasa abroad, so hindi po siya miyembro, hindi siya nagbabayad, so ‘yung kamag-anak niya rito sa Pilipinas, ‘yung magulang niya, ‘yung kapatid niya… kadalasan, dahil hindi covered po ‘yan, ‘pag nagkasakit ang unang-unang tinatawagan po nila si OFW. Siya ang kinakalampag ‘pag nagkasakit para magpadala dito sa Pilipinas kasi wala silang PhilHealth coverage. But with the universal healthcare, ang concept lahat ng Pilipino covered, ang unang-unang sasalo noon, hindi na si OFW, kundi si PhilHealth,” Salo said.
“Ang concept ng universal healthcare, lahat ng kayang magbayad ngayon magbayad sila. Lahat ng pwedeng magcontribute na may kakayanan, mag-contribute,” he added.
“Ang comment po nila, mas mataas ang coverage na mayroon ako sa ibinigay sa akin na insurance ng employer so I don’t need that. True you don’t need it, but so many people depending on you actually need it. Later on, kung wala ka nang kakayanan, pag-uwi mo rito… for as long as there is universal health care, covered ka pa rin,” Salo also said.
OVERSEAS HEALTH WORKERS
The DMW chief also tagged as “unfair” the policy of putting a cap on the number of Filipino health workers allowed to work abroad.
Ople said, the existing cap is at 7,500, and so far, around 4,000 have been deployed.
“Personally po… For me as secretary, I really think it’s unfair if we stand in the way of an individual’s practice of his or her profession. But again we will also have to sit down with the DOH, kasi this is an IATF request,” she said.
INSURANCE OF OFWS
Rep. Allan Ty, meanwhile, questioned the suspension of the expanded mandatory insurance for OFWs.
Ople said the move is temporary, pending the results of their consultation with stakeholders, including insurance companies. She added some OFWs encounter challenges in its implementation.
“It also adds sa burden ng OFWs, lalu na ‘yung balik-manggagawa. Sa new hires walang problema kasi it’s paid for by the employer through the recruitment agencies. ‘Yung balik-mangagawa hindi nila ma-compel ‘yung kanilang employers to pay, so sinuspend muna namin so that we can have extensive consultations with the stakeholders, including insurance companies,” Ople said.
“I don’t know if you have that basis to suspend that expanded insurance coverage… You should have legal basis to suspend it. Because the law is very clear. That is mandatory,” Ty said.
“We take note of your concern. Please give us time to also get back to you,” Ople added.
OFW MOBILE APP
The DMW, in partnership with the DICT, is developing a mobile app that OFWs can use to easily access the agency’s services, including response to distress situations and repatriation.
“The features of this app include the provision of an SOS button so, pag kinlick nila y’un, mali-lead sila doon sa ating receiving centers, if they are in distress or in need of repatriation or any other form of emergency service,” Usec. Tonette Velasco-Allones told the committee.
“There is also a profile within the app, so we can track kung nagbabago ng employer, nagbago ng kontrata, nagbago ng lugar, kasama po lahat doon ‘yung updates on the migrant workers information, including their OWWA renewal membership data,” she added.
The app also has a balik-manggagawa processing option to assist in the processing of overseas employment certificate for returning workers.
“Mayroong digital vault para in their mobile phones or in their laptops, they already have access to their passport image, the QR code of their active OEC and other digital copy of pertinent documents. And a help desk so they will be able to file inquiries and be able to be assisted by our staff,” Velasco-Allones added.
Source: Should PhilHealth fees be made voluntary for OFWs? | ABS-CBN News