“The widespread corruption in the government is the reason why OFWs are strongly against the planned mandatory PhilHealth and premium rate hike. OFWs cannot entrust the government that their hard-earned money will benefit their families and the rest of the Filipino people.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Migrant workers in different parts of the world are indignant over the recent controversy surrounding Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Members of Migrante International held a global online rally on Aug. 11, Tuesday to express their rage against the billions of pesos plundered by high officials of Philhealth. Their call: “Public health not private wealth.”
The OFWs called for accountability of PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer, retired general Ricardo Morales and others involved in the corruption which they described as the “crime of the year.”
They lamented that the billions of pesos that were plundered by PhilHealth officials could have been spent for the Filipinos who are in crisis brought about by the pandemic.
Joanna Concepcion, chairperson of Migrante, said the widespread corruption in the government is the reason why OFWs are strongly against the planned mandatory PhilHealth and premium rate hike. She said that OFWs cannot entrust the government that their hard-earned money will benefit their families and the rest of the Filipino people.
‘Mandatory PhilHealth is a scam’
The OFWs said PhilHealth has no use for them and their families. According to the different Migrante chapters abroad, OFWs are covered by health programs in the countries where they are employed.
Seafarers and their families, for instance, enjoy a complete health care package from their companies.
Lawyer Edwin Dela Cruz of International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) explained that it is stipulated in the seafarer’s contract that any illnesses and injuries sustained in accidents and even death are covered by the insurance provided by the shipowner and the agency.
Dela Cruz said this why the mandatory Philhealth among OFWs is a scam.
For example, he said, a seafarer and his agency would pay Philhealth dues of P6,000 (US$123) each for a 11-month contract or a total of P12,000 (US$246).
He added that if a company has a union, union dues are also deducted from their salary and hospitalization packages are also included in their benefits.
Fr. June Mark Yanez of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente’s Seamen’s Mission in Germany also said that the mandatory Philhealth for OFWs is unnecessary. He said that upon his visits to the seafarers in Germany, many of them also have health insurance provided by the company.
He said mandatory Philhealth is a form of duplication. “What is the use of Philhealth if they have health insurance provided by the company and the host country?” he said.
There is also a universal health program in Canada, said Migrante-Canada secretary general Perry Sorio. Migrant workers are also covered by the program. Migrante-Canada meanwhile makes ways to help those who are not covered by the health program.
The same goes for migrant workers,students as well as those who have dual citizenship in Europe. Marlon Lacsamana, secretary general of Migrante-Europe said this is why they are firm that mandatory PhilHealth should never be implemented.
In the Philhealth Circular No. 2020-0014, OFWs who are mandated to pay premium include land-based OFWs, seafarers and other sea-based workers, Filipinos with dual citizenship, Filipinos living abroad, overseas Filipinos in distress and other overseas Filipinos not previously classified elsewhere.
PhilHealth premiums to be paid by OFWs will be based on their income. They are also required to remit three percent of their annual salaries and by 2021, their contribution will be increased to 3.5 percent. This will be increased annually until the amount reaches five percent by 2024.
For now, the government has put on hold the collection of premiums from the OFWs following massive protests around the world.
Health as business
Dela Cruz said the government has made business out of health services in the country.
He added that instead of using tax to provide basic social services to the people, the government has implemented neoliberal policies and privatized social services like health.
“Tax should be spent for the social services such as health, education and housing, and not premiums that the government is collecting through PhilHealth because that becomes business,” he said.
Dela Cruz said OFWs became an easy target for schemes like this because they will not be allowed to leave the country to work abroad if they will not adhere.
Dr. Delen Dela Paz of Health Alliance of Democracy (HEAD), meanwhile, said that Philhealth is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) which is run like a private agency. This is why its main resources are from fees collected from its members in exchange for health services which are limited.
However, PhilHealth has not ensured that funds are properly used for the benefit of the people, she said.
‘Hold them accountable’
Sheila Tebia of Migrante Hong Kong said it is enraging that while Filipinos continue to live in crisis in the time of the pandemic, PhilHealth officials “live in luxury using taxpayers’ money.”
She called on fellow OFWs to not let this pass “just like the other erring officials like former Customs Chief Nicanor Faeldon who was implicated in illegal drugs in the Bureau of Customs.”
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