OFWs triumph over proposed Philhealth premium hike

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can have a breather for now as the Philhealth Board recently released a memorandum circular deferring the proposed implementation of a 160% hike in Philhealth premium fees.

Last February 21, the Philhealth Board release Memorandum Circular No. 007, series of 2012, declaring its postponement of the implementation of the premium increase to January 1, 2013 “in consideration of the request of civil society and non-government organizations to defer implementation of said premium in light of the global crisis resulting in the repatriation of a number of OFWs”.

The Philhealth Board issued Circular No. 022 in January imposing a 160% hike in premium fees to the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP). The hike was set to be effective on July 2012 and will affect all members and enrollees of Philhealth, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

For OFWs, the health premium would have increased from P900 to P2,400 annually and was expected to cover all agency-new hires as the Philhealth is a requirement for the issuance of the Overseas Employment Contract (OEC).

“This latest Philhealth memo is a victory for all OFWs who made their protest heard. This is proof that through OFWs’ unity against unjust state exactions and other forms of legalized kotong concrete tactical results can be achieved,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez, however, said that the “fight is far from over.” “This is just a deferment, not a cancellation of the fee hike. We were able to stop the planned implementation but we vow to continue to be vigilant against all forms of legalized kotong,” he said.

He said that Migrante International will still continue to gather as many signatures for their petition campaign against the Philhealth premium fee increase. He also said that they will continue to coordinate with other sectors who will still be affected by the Philhealth premium increase, including government employees, trade union and health workers.

Pandora’s Box

“The campaign against the Philhealth premium hike also served as the Pandora’s Box on numerous complaints of inefficiencies in Philheath’s services to OFWs and their families. We will continue to gather accounts and reports from OFWs all over the world and will bring these to the attention of concerned agencies,” Martinez said.

Martinez 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.” ###