MANILA — The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is studying how it can help students who are required to have health insurance in order to attend limited in-person classes.
In a recent interview with ABS-CBN News, CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera said the commission has met with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease and representatives from various universities to discuss the health insurance policy as well as assistance that can be extended to students.
"For example, we can put in the budget of PhilHealth, lalagyan ng budget for the coverage of the students, let's say even for one year, habang kino-control natin iyong pandemic," he said, referring to the state medical insurer.
(For example we can put in the budget of Philhealth, include a budget for the coverage of students. We can have this for a year while we're still trying to control the pandemic.)
"The other option is [to] look at emerging studies all over the world. Kasi iyong ibang countries, ang nire-require nila mandatory vaccination plus booster na lang... But we have to be guided by the science of it," he added.
(The other option is to look at emerging studies all over the world. Because in other countries, they only require mandatory vaccination and booster doses... But we have to be guided by the science of it.)
COVID-19 vaccination is also a requirement for college students attending limited in-person classes in the Philippines.
De Vera explained students below 21 years old are automatically covered by Philhealth if their parents are members of the state insurer.
"Ang problema natin, iyong above that pero estudyante pa. The proposal originally of some of the groups is to enroll them as parang indigent members kasi estudyante sila, wala pa naman silang trabaho," De Vera said.
(Our problem are students aged 21 and above. The original proposal of some groups is to enroll them as indigent members because they are still students, they don't have jobs yet.)
But De Vera stressed that students do not necessarily have to be enrolled with PhilHealth.
"Ang nakalagay sa guidelines, the schools have to make sure to assist the students [in getting] PhilHealth membership[s] or have their own medical insurance system... They can use their Student Development Fund to secure - if it is cheaper - to secure group insurance for the students," he said.
(The guidelines say the schools have to make sure to assist the students in getting Philhealth memberships or have their own medical insurance system.)
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) earlier called on government to provide funding for the health insurance of students attending in-person classes.
NUSP President Jandeil Roperos has said the health insurance requirement has become an "added burden" for students who want to return to classroom instruction.
The Department of Health has said the budget department is looking for ways to fund the insurance required for college students.
Meanwhile, De Vera said "many" universities refuse to return to pure in-person classes, and prefer a combination of remote learning and face-to-face instruction.
"Mukhang nasanay na 'yong mga estudyante at saka faculty, mas gusto na nilang mag-more on online than face-to-face," De Vera said.
(It looks like the students and faculty members have gotten used to online classes, they prefer it more than face-to-face.)
"I think majority ay flexible system, where you can combine going to school, let's say one or two days in the week... That seems to be an emerging sentiment in many universities," he added.