Philhealth premium hike a burden on OFWs, hike plan must be scrapped

Press Statement
13 January 2024

Migrante-International, the biggest organization of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and migrant Filipinos, condemn the Bongbong Marcos Jr regime for implementing the increase in members’ premium contribution to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from 4% to 5% this year. We are calling for the junking of this hike and the entire scheme of increasing PhilHealth premium contributions.

The premium hike — which will bring deductions to P500-P5,000 for OFWs earning P10,000-P99,999.99 a month — is an additional financial burden for OFWs. The Marcos Jr regime should know that while it hikes PhilHealth premium contributions, most OFWs face stagnant wages and increasing cost of living and rent. OFW families in the Philippines also struggle with higher cost of living and rent, as well as unemployment and stagnant wages, in the Philippines. 

Due to the outcry of the Filipino migrants and people, the Marcos Jr regime was forced to suspend the implementation of the premium hike from 4% to 4.5% last 2023. It should do the same for the premium hike this year. 

We beg to disagree with PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Ledesma, Jr.’s insensitive and indeed self-serving statement that “Ako, personally, although it may sound self serving… it’s a small amount for them, but the benefits that they’re going to feel, ramdam na ramdam nila.”

The truth is that OFWs do not benefit from PhilHealth as its coverage is only in the Philippines. When OFWs get sick or need medical attention abroad, they are subject to considerable medical fees and costs in other countries and survive through the insurance packages that they pay for. Most of the time, OFW families in the Philippines have one or two members who are already covered by PhilHealth. For OFWs, PhilHealth contributions are simply extortion by the Philippine government. These contributions are yet another proof that the government treats OFWs as milking cows and deny them of services.

PhilHealth has also faced numerous corruption cases in the past. Many private hospitals have complained about PhilHealth’s non-remittance of payments and have stopped recognizing PhilHealth coverage and deductions in hospital bills.

We reiterate our stand that health is a human right and should be provided as a form of service by the Philippine government in exchange for the taxes that migrant Filipinos and all Filipinos pay. We reject the government’s alibi that it does not have funds for health and other social services in light of the cases of gross misallocation and corruption and plunder of public funds that are frequently exposed in the country. In this vein, in the long term, the PhilHealth must be abolished.

We fear that premium contributions to the Social Security System or SSS will be next. Seeing the immense financial burden borne by migrant Filipinos and all Filipinos because of the current cost of living crisis, the Marcos Jr regime should at least suspend the implementation of these premium hikes. We are calling on migrant Filipinos and all Filipinos to speak up and join protests against these premium hikes and all exactions imposed by the Philippine state. ###