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UAE-based Filipinos react to bill that pushes for OFW exemption from paying PhilHealth premiums

Many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) based in the UAE agree that they should not be mandated to pay the premiums of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), supporting the bill that aims to exempt them from the agency’s compulsory contributions.

Recently, Albay Representative Joey Salceda filed a bill seeking to reform PhilHealth through the “PhilHealth Reform Act of 2020” (HB 7578). Under this, there will be a revamp in the embattled organization to ensure that the Universal Healthcare Law will be funded and get rid of corruption activities.

Salceda also pushes for the exemption of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to pay Philhealth premiums, saying that they are not earning in the Philippines and there is no direct benefit from the agency.

In the straw poll conducted by The Filipino Times based on social media reactions, about 58 percent of netizens said it is unfair that they are obliged to pay the premiums especially since they have not directly benefitted from it, and also because they feel discouraged due to the widespread corruption allegedly happening inside the agency.

“OFWs must not need to give [payment] unless this will go to the family itself!!!! Kaysa naman magbabayad silang kahit ilang percent pa, hindi naman sila ang gagamit!!!!” said April Sevillo.

Many OFW netizens also expressed frustration about the law that mandates them to regularly contribute to PhilHealth before they can get their overseas employment certificate (OEC)—an exit pass issued by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) that needs to be presented to the immigration officer at the airport of exit in the Philippines.

“Dapat ‘di yan required sa pagkuha ng OEC, kung sino lang may gusto, magbayad sila. Pag ayaw, ‘di huwag,” said netizen Cristina Mendoza.

Unreasonable amount

Mendoza, along with many other OFWs, also said that the requirement to remit 3 percent of their annual salaries to PhilHealth is also unreasonable.

“Sobrang taas monthly, may nalalaman pang 3% at 5% sa sahod. ‘Di po pinupulot ang pera sa abroad at ‘di lahat maayos ang trabaho iba tiis na lang,” she said.

“Okay lang naman magbayad, natural lang bilang isang Filipino citizen na magbayad sa mga responsibilad. Pero ‘yong reasonable naman ang amount,” added Marichu M. Altar Sy.

Lenegin D. Agustin, meanwhile, said that it’s unfair for them to increase their contributions, especially now that their salaries have been reduced due to the pandemic.

“Huwa na sanang taasan pa kasi [ang PhilHealth contribution kasi] marami kaming mga OFW dito sa Middle East na hindi kalakihan ang sahod, lalo na ngayong pandemic reduced pa sahod naming,” she said.

OFW Arjie Butial also stressed that while he is willing to pay, the unreasonable amount and the corruption issues discourage him from contributing.

“Okay lang naman mag-contribute, but not to an unreasonable amount na parang kami na papasan ng kakulangan at pangungurakot! Also, sana hindi lang puro imbestiga ang nangyayari kundi sana may makulong,” he said.

Change the system 

Some OFWs, however, say that there are some benefits to be had at PhilHealth, noting that it helped them get enough protection for their families back home as well as themselves. However, the system inside the agency must be changed

“Hindi lang naman para sa atin ang PhilHealth, pwede sa anak natin at sa mga magulang. Sisteme lang ang dapat baguhin. Paano naman kami sa future kung hindi ayusin ang systema na yan?,” said one netizen who commented on The Filipino Times’ post.

Netizen Baluya Mark Eric, on the other hand, said he is willing to support the mandatory payment of PhilHealth premiums for beneficiaries in the Philippines, but the rate should be lower.

“1.5% or lower or flat rate,” he said.

The controversial circular

In June, PhilHealth issued circular which imposes a 3 percent increase in contributions ranging from Php10,000 to Php60,000 will still take effect when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

The circular classified OFWs as direct contributors under the Universal Healthcare Law and therefore, payment and remittance of premium contributions is mandatory.

READ ALSO: Filipinos in UAE lash out at PhilHealth’s mandatory 3% payment

An OFW who has an income of Php10,000 to Php60,000 will have a hike in premium of 2.75 percent.

The agency claims that only 320,000 OFWS are actively contributing to PhilHealth right now out of more than 3 million registered members. They have also collected Php1.02 billion from the 320,000 OFW contributors, both here and abroad.

PhilHealth is now under fire as allegations of billions of corruptions hound the agency.

Jamille Domingo-Marasigan

Jamille Domingo-Marasigan gathers stories on a wide array of topics, particularly on the Philippines, UAE, Saudi, and Bahrain—which are published on The Filipino Times Newspaper, The Filipino Times Website, and The Filipino Times Newsletter. She also presents the news on cam in the pre-recorded daily broadcast of The Filipino Times Newsbreak—a run-through of the most important events of the day, reaching 5,000 to 20,000 views—to deliver stories to audiences inclined to audio-visual content online. For recommendations and story pitches, you can reach her at [email protected]

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