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Pinoy in Dubai tells House hearing: “Lubog sa utang ang mga OFW, dadagdag pa ang 3% PhilHealth premium rate”

An Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the UAE described the compulsory contribution currently being implemented by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) “not just redundant but totally expensive”.

During the resumption of the house committee investigation last Tuesday, August 18, into alleged widespread corruption hounding PhilHealth, OFW Jay Tolentino was among migrant workers who were invited by lawmakers to share their insights on the 3 percent hike in OFW contribution to the state insurer.

Tolentino has been working in the UAE for the past five years as a financial planner. He represented the Filipino community in sharing their stand on the 3 percent increase in mandatory contribution.

“The 3 percent contribution is not just redundant but totally expensive,” the OFW said during the remote hearing.

“Kasi nga, let me explain po, lahat ng nagwo-work dito sa UAE na Filipino ay kasama na ang medical insurance bilang bahagi ng law. Mandated po ng government [ng UAE] na mag provide ang companies ng health insurance,” he added.

In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, employers and sponsors are responsible for providing health insurance coverage for their employees and their families (1 spouse and 3 children under 18 years).

In the emirate of Dubai, employers are required to provide health insurance coverage for their employees. Sponsors are required to get insurance cover for their resident dependents.

Tolentino explained to lawmakers that a minimum coverage for health insurance starts from AED150,000.

“We think na ‘yung 3 percent magiging investment nalang for us, but as an extra expense parang hindi na relevant sa amin ito,” he said.

The OFW also showed during the House hearing a report of The Filipino Times in 2018 about some 450 Pinays being diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

In the UAE, healthcare insurance covers around AED32,000 or roughly around Php424,000 chemotherapy expenses on the average. Tolentino compared it with Philhealth’s coverage for cancer patients which is only at Php100,000.

“We find it expensive and paying for 3 percent for an inefficient coverage,” he said.

Tolentino said that Filipinos abroad would also prefer to make PhilHealth payment voluntary rather than making it compulsory.

“Nakakalungkot po na since the pandemic, maraming pong OFWs na nalubog sa utang. And kung idadagdag po itong 3 percent na ito… magiging additional burden sya sa amin,” Tolentino added.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth said only 320,000 OFWs are actively paying their contributions out of more than 3 million registered members.

The House of Representative has approved a motion amending some provisions in the Universal Healthcare Law (UHC) to remove overseas Filipino workers as direct contributors to PhilHealth.

Under the UHC law, direct contributors are those with the means to pay premiums, are gainfully employed, and are bound by an employer-employee relationship.

Premium contributions increased from 2.75 percent to 3 percent of annual salary under this category.

The PhilHealth circular mandating the increase in premiums among OFWs received criticisms and even prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend its implementation early this year.

Mark Nituma

Mark is the editorial director of TFT and is currently based in its Manila headquarters. Upon graduating from UP Diliman in 2010, he joined the internationally-awarded TV magazine show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho as a researcher. Nearly a year later, he became one of its segment producers. In a span of five years with GMA7, he was able to travel not only the Philippines’ most beautiful spots but also the country’s least visited places—from some of the war-torn areas of Mindanao to impoverished parts of Luzon and Visayas—capturing a closer look at life in these communities. Mark also worked with various TV programs and specials such as Philippine Treasure and Reel Time. After his five-year stint in the media network, he flew to Dubai in 2016 to start his career as a journalist/reporter for The Filipino Times. Got story pitches? Send Mark an email at [email protected] or drop him a line on facebook.com/mark.nituma.

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