Monday, May 4, 2020

Nagkaisa chides PhilHealth for incompetence, insensitivity; lack of workers representation, consultations; presses for hike moratorium

Absence of genuine workers' representation and consultations have led to a perceived staggering increase in the scheduled premium payment of OFWs to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) according to the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition.

NAGKAISA likened this to taxation without representation. Had there been consultations with OFW groups and trade unions, this policy would not have even been proposed.

This is why the labor coalition is calling for the suspension or moratorium on the implementation of UHC, particularly for OFWs.

The mandatory OFW coverage is like an income tax, which was abolished by earlier laws for them to have tax-free income. The Memo circular and the law kwhich it is based, now negates this income tax-free privilege without categorically amending the earlier law granting OFWs tax exemption.

NAGKAISA, the biggest labor coalition in the country, submits that the Philhealth should have designed a package of benefits tailor-fit to the needs of our OFWs. After all, Section 9 of the Universal Health Care Act say that “Philhealth shall provide additional Program benefits for direct contributors, where applicable.” Instead, Philhealth callously and horribly foisted its program on our OFWs without even consideration to their peculiar situation. It will, in effect suck, most of our OFWs' blood dry.

Equally deplorable is the provision in the IRR of the UHC Law signed by Secretary Duque of DOH and retired BGen Morales of PhilHealth, particularly Section 10.2.c thereof which states to the effect that payment of monthly premiums will now be a requirement prior to the issuance of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) by the POEA. Therefore, vacationing OFWs will not be allowed to leave the country to return to their work abroad unless we pay in full our Philhealth contributions. Such imposition is tantamount to holding hostage the future of the OFWs and our families back home under the whims and caprices of PHilhealth demanding for ransom.

This comes at a very bad time and leaves a very bad taste in the mouth, as government has refused to give any assistance to the families of OFWs, since the head of the household is employed abroad. Perhaps government really wants to make heroes out of OFWs in the cinematic sense--beaten, humiliated, deprived of justice. If we follow the script, OFWs will rise, fight and win justice for themselves, their families and the people.

Apart from calling for the suspension or moratorium of the new policy, NAGKAISA demands that:

1) Philhealth conduct consultations with OFWs from as many countries as possible, either physically or online, with the aim of developing a package suitable to the needs of the OFW abroad and to their families back home.

2) Congress review and amend the law to make the status of being Direct Contributors as discretionary on the part of the OFWs, thereby giving flexibility for them to select which income level to declare based on their capability to pay and their desire to receive more benefits corresponding to their level of premium contribution;

3) Scrap the requirement of submission of proof of actual income for OFWs; and,

4) Trash the mandatory obligation of full premium payment as requirement for the issuance of the OEC for departing OFWs for being extortionist in nature.

5) Appoint trade union and OFW representatives to the PhilHealth Board.

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