Duterte: Payment of overseas workers’ PhilHealth premiums ‘voluntary’

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MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered PhilHealth to make the payment of premiums of overseas Filipino workers or OFWs to be voluntary, his spokesman said Monday.

“First of all, we are informing the public that the president has issued a directive to PhilHealth to make OFWs’ payment of premiums to be voluntary,” Harry Roque said in an online press briefing.

Accordingly, he added, “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.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier joined the leftist labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, or May 1st Movement, in denouncing the move of the  Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth to increase the mandatory contribution of overseas Filipino workers starting this year.

An online petition on against the PhilHealth move has so far gained close to 300,000 signatures.

Locsin said the state health insurance payments required of migrant workers would not benefit them at all. “It is like an income tax which was abolished for OFWs and even their tax-free income filings were destroyed,” he tweeted on Sunday.

“They are just totally out of the purview of government exactions for which they will not benefit at all,” said Locsin, who retweeted the call for help by an OFW who opposed the increased premium contribution asked by PhilHealth.

PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales and the agency spokesperson, Shirley Domingo, were repeatedly sought for comment but had not responded as of this reporting.

Under PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 dated April 2, the “premium of overseas Filipinos shall be computed based on their monthly income, to be paid in Philippine peso equivalent, in accordance with the terms of payment and corresponding due dates as prescribed by the corporation.”

The circular mandates OFWs earning a monthly income of 10,000 pesos to 60,000 pesos or $198 to $1,189 to pay 3% of their monthly salary, up from 2.75% in 2019.

The percentage will increase every year until 2025, when Filipinos overseas will be required to pay 5% of their monthly salary if they earn 10,000 pesos to 100,000 pesos or $198 to $1,981  a month.

This year, an OFW is required by PhilHealth to pay an initial 2,400 pesos or $47.56 before leaving for abroad and to pay the balance of the premium contribution through quarterly payments within a year.

“Why don’t we just leave OFWs alone except to help them when they are in trouble?” said Locsin, pointing out that OFW remittances “account for 10% of our GDP (gross domestic product) according to the a******s who want to take some of their earnings.”

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