THE ORDER for PhilHealth came straight from the top.
In a morning press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Palace has "issued a directive to PhilHealth to make payment of OFWs (overseas foreign workers) of PhilHealth premiums voluntary."
Also this morning, amid growing backlash to its announced hike of premiums for overseas foreign workers, the government health insurance company said that it's temporarily suspending all collections.
"May moratorium tayo sa collection," president and CEO Ricardo Morales told DZMM.
Here's a recap of everything that happened in the issue that set the ranks of overseas Filipinos ablaze.
On April 22, PhilHealth published Circular No. 2020-0014, detailing a new increase in premiums required from overseas Filipino workers.
OFWs earning between P10,000 to P60,000 are now required to pay 3 percent of their monthly salary for premium rate contributions, up from 2.75 percent in 2019.
“The premium of overseas Filipinos shall be computed based on their monthly income, to be paid in Philippine Peso equivalent, in accordance with the terms of payment and corresponding due dates as prescribed by the corporation,” the circular said.
As 2020 will be a “transition year”, PhilHealth will only require a P2,400 initial payment. The rest of the payment (equivalent of 3% of their declared salary over 12 months) can be paid in full, or in tranches of three, four, or twelve months.
Here’s the table of payments, as well as a breakdown per salary range. For 2020, an OFW earning a monthly salary of $400.01 to $1,153.84, for example, needs to pay a P2,400 initial payment, then a balance that ranges from P5,106.72 to P19,200.
PhilHealth said that the increase was a “reiteration” of existing policy. The new 3 percent rate is part of the Universal Health Care Law, which was approved in February 2019.
In addition, it said that it had already issues advisories regarding this as early as December of last year.
Nevertheless, the backlash has been swift and severe.
A Change.org petition asking for its repeal has gathered over 394,000 signatures as of posting.
Government officials like DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. have also slammed the contribution. “After the abolition of the income tax on OFWs, they’ve figured another way to tax you for your great privilege of being born Filipino, poor and jobless at home. Let’s all sing for nothing,” he tweeted.
No less than health secretary Francisco Duque III has also called for its repeal. “I call for the suspension of Section 10.2.C of the IRR of the UHC Law in light of COVID-19 and its economic impact on OFWs,” he tweeted.
Previously, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said in a statement that while the government-owned corporation “fully understands the sentiments of our OFWs”, he repeated that this increase is “in accordance with specific provisions of [...] the Universal Health Care Act of 2019.”
Morales also noted that providing universal health care for all Filipinos requires funding through premium contributions.
Morales added: “Recognizing that everyone is cash-strapped during these difficult times [...] PhilHealth has adopted a flexible payment scheme which will allow OFWs — and all other directly paying self-employed members — to pay their contributions within the year.”
He said, however, that PhilHealth cannot change the law.