No legal basis for 100% Philhealth premium hike for OFWs

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International views the recent 100% hike in Philhealth premium as “another illegal state exaction on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).”

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or Philhealth Board recently issued an order imposing a 100% hike in premium fees to the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP). The hike will be effective this January 2014 and will affect all members and enrollees of Philhealth, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Before this, Philhealth arbitrarily raised its premium from P900 to P1,200 despite Philhealth Board Memorandum Circular No. 007, series of 2012, declaring its postponement of the implementation of the premium increase on OFWs “in consideration of the request of civil society and non-government organizatons to defer the implementation of said premium in light of the global crisis resulting in the repatriation of a number of OFWs.”

Because of this, Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez stated that both the earlier (P900-P1,200) and recent (P1,200-P2,400) premium hikes have no legal basis.

“The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has not issued any circular or order authorizing recruitment agencies to collect the additional premium of P1,500. In fact, agencies are only allowed to collect the P900 Philhealth membership fee. This has not been amended by the POEA since the Philhealth first proposed to increase from P900,” Martinez said.

He said that the increase from P900 to P1,200 was “therefore illegal and should be refunded to OFWs who were forced to pay”, and that the recent hike from P1,200 to P2,400 should not be implemented because it has no legal basis.

“OFWs have every right to refuse to pay the P2,400 Philhealth premium, and complain if their agencies are compelling them to pay more than P900 for the OEC,” Martinez said.

“We are angered by this most recent fee imposition especially in light of the continuous spate of price hikes and state exactions on OFWs and the Filipino people. This is another form of ‘kotong’ being imposed on OFWs without proper consultation with the sector and other stakeholders,” he said.

Martinez said that they support the pending congressional hearings to investigate the proposed Philhealth premium hike. They are also mulling taking legal action against the Philhealth and other implementing agencies imposing the hike despite its lack of legal basis.

Martinez also said that they are also keenly studying allegations that the Philhealth premium may also be a direct violation of Republic Act 8042, as amended by RA 10022, which prohibits increases in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents.

He refuted claims by the government that the recent Philhealth premium hike is for the thrust to “attain Universal Health Care”. “Health care should be free. This most recent hike only illustrates how greedy for profit the government is. Meanwhile, Philhealth services for OFWs have been dismal, unreliable, and in some cases, non-existent for our OFWs.”

Migrante International chapters in Hong Kong have already launched big protest actions of OFWs against the Philhealth premium increase. More protests are expected worldwide, the migrant leader said. ###