Senators hit Philhealth on increase of contribution of OFWs

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday stressed the recently implemented increase in Philhealth OFW contribution from 2.75 percent  in 2019 to 3 percent  this year is insensitive, ill-advised and ill-timed.

Drilon branded as “astonishing” the circular increasing OFW contribution issued on April 2, 2020 at the height of the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“It is not unknown that our OFWs are one of the most affected sectors of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Drilon.

In the spirit of compassion, he said the government should not find it hard to impose a moratorium on the increase of this contribution.

Aside from the Philhealth membership contribution, the Senate leader said there are other sources of healthcare expenses: excise tax collection from sweetened beverage, alcohol and tobacco; and contribution from PAGCOR and PCSO.

“Again, I reiterate that the Bayanihan to Heal As One allows our government to free up more resources, realign and reprogram its budget,” said Drilon.

“I have repeatedly called for the billion worth of budget for various programs to be realigned the soonest possible time as these programs will be impossible to be implemented this year,” he added.

According to Drilon, they will be discussing the 2021 budget soon, and they can discuss a possible bigger subsidy for Philhealth under the GAA to enable the same to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sen. Sonny Angara said while the universal health care (UHC) law says PhilHealth can get up to 3%,  the timing is very unfortunate given the economic crisis worldwide.

At a time when people are losing jobs or taking pay cuts and business is suffering in general, Angara said we should think of alternative ways to fund PhilHealth. “Perhaps a health bond or some other financial instrument.”

Angara said OFWs should not be barred from leaving the country just because they don’t pay their premium to PhilHealth.

“I don’t believe the law authorizes that. If the IRR (implementing rules & regulations) states that then it’s overboard and probably illegal,” he said.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said they supported the Universal Health Care Law because they want health coverage for all Filipinos.

“We also supported it because we want better and more benefits for our Filipino kababayans who are often crippled with devastating financial burdens in case of sickness,” Villanueva said.

The UHC, he noted,  was not envisioned in any way to be an additional burden for citizens, but as a shared goal to achieving universal healthcare for all.

“We will definitely discuss this further with PhilHealth. We are going to look at the  resolution of Philhealth and check whether it is consistent with the UHC,” he said.

He said common sense dictates Philhealth should cancel/postpone premium rate hikes at this point in time.

Sen. Risa  Hontiveros said  PhilHealth should, together with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority  (POEA), should immediately review the implementing rules & regulations in close consultation with OFWs.

She said guidelines should take into consideration the economic plight of overseas Filipino workers, especially during times of COVID-19.

Earlier, nearly 300,000 OFWs signed a petition protesting PhilHealth’s premium rate hike, saying that their jobs were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic./Stacy Ang

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