Duterte suspends higher PhilHealth premiums for OFWs in the middle of COVID-19 outbreak

President Duterte decided to reduce the burden of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) by suspending the collection of higher premiums, his spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday (May 4).

The President also suspended the higher premium rates levied on the salaries of OFWs. Roque added in his statement that it was acted upon by the Health Secretary who suspended the increased collection for Philhealth.

The Labor Department offered one-time aid worth 10,000 pesos for repatriated workers as thousands of Filipinos have flown home for losing their jobs abroad.

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation Vice President and Spokesperson Dr. Shirley Domingo said the agency is still awaiting for the instructions from Malacañang.

The sustainability and the achievement of the goals of Universal Health Care law needs funding, Domingo pointed out. They will also clarify everything with Malacañang.

OFWs are required to remit 3 percent of their annual salaries to PhilHealth computed from a monthly pay range of ₱10,000 to ₱60,000, up from last year's 2.75 percent rate. By next year, the contribution will be increased to 3.5 percent and will be raised every year until the share hits 5 percent by 2024.

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales said separately that the agency is seeking for a longer payment period as well as optional contributions following backlash on the collection of health insurance premiums amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He's certain that the crisis won't end by May 30. They are looking at a longer period of the moratorium. In effect, flexible payment period, Morales said during the Laging Handa briefing.

Members of the state insurance and premium payments from other OFWs have been on hold due to the Bayanihan to Heal as one Act until May 30. The agency is still deciding for the extension of extending this further.

OFWs who feels unwell abroad must first arrange their dues with the foreign medical facility then submit receipts and documents to PhilHealth so they can receive their reimbursement, Domingo said.

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, requested the state insurance firm to decide upon delaying the collection of higher premiums. He also asked PhilHealth to not include people classified as "overseas Filipinos in distress" from payments.

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