MANILA - Overseas Filipino workers should look at the Universal Healthcare Law as an investment and not an expense, former Senator JV Ejercito said Friday.
“According to the UHC law, all Filipinos are made automatically members of PhilHealth and they are entitled to all different packages. What the OFWs do not know is the benefits of what they’re getting,” Ejercito said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
He said COVID-19 patients are now being covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) because of the UHC law.
Under COVID-19 disease related packages, mild to critical pneumonia are now covered.
The primary author and sponsor of the UHC law said PhilHealth’s Z Benefit Packages or catastrophic diseases, have also been increased.
“We have also leveled up the benefit packages that we are offering just in case they would need to be hospitalized,” he said.
He also said that while abroad, the family members of OFWs are all covered by the law.
“Hopefully, they treat this as an investment rather than an expense,” he said.
Ejercito said that OFWs account for one percent of the whole contribution to PhilHealth.
“To correct also the OFWs' thinking that they shoulder much, the OFW sector only contributes about 1 percent of the total pie of the PhilHealth. The formal sector, the employees, the regular employees—government and private—contribute more than 50 percent,” he said.
“Everybody is contributing,” he added.
In 2018, OFW contribution to PhilHealth amounted to P1.028- billin and claim utilization was at P2.041 billion.
“They claim more than double and that is expected to increase further as the Universal Health Care law is implemented this year. All members of the family will now be covered,” he said.
PhilHealth drew flak for increasing the premium of OFWs particularly during a pandemic.
Under PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014, the state insurance agency said OFWs with an income of P10,000 to P20,000 would be required to pay 3 percent of their monthly salary starting 2020, an increase from 2.75 percent the previous year.
An initial payment of P2,400 is required prior to the OFW's departure and they may settle the balance after 6 months or in the next 2 quarters, PhilHealth said.
The measure was first announced in an advisory last Dec. 23, and took effect after it was published in a major newspaper on April 22.
Because of mounting opposition, President Rodrigo Duterte has directed PhilHealth to make the payment of premiums voluntary for OFWs.
“I still stand by it. It’s a very good law. It aims in giving good quality healthcare to all Filipinos,” Ejercito said.
He said the government should adapt to the situation as it does not want to be a burden to OFWs.
“We don’t want to be a burden, so we have to adjust. I would recommend to the present crop of senators and congressmen to deliberate on the amendments so that we can strike a balance with the contribution,” he said.