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FAQ on the mandatory collection of PhilHealth premium among Filipinos overseas 

The pandemic is currently causing a widespread loss of jobs and livelihood. At present, millions of overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs have lost their jobs and an estimated 420,000 OFWs will be forcibly repatriated and have to return to the Philippines. Both within and outside of the country, there is a disappointing lack of social aid for Filipinos, especially for workers, OFWs and the poor. Coinciding with this is the lack of mass testing and protections for healthcare frontliners who comprise 10% of the total COVID-19 deaths at present.

Instead of eliminating hardship for them, Pres. Duterte added to their burdens by imposing a forced collection of PhilHealth premiums for all Filipinos outside of the country, with a hefty fine for those who do not pay. 

Because of the widespread indignation among migrants, Duterte suspended the collection of premiums. However, this is only temporary as collection will resume starting June 2020. It is clear how the mandatory membership and premium increase prove that Filipino migrants are merely cash cows to the government in line with its widespread and long-standing labor export policy.

What does the memorandum circular entail?

This PhilHealth memo orders, in accordance with the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Law, that all overseas Filipinos are required to pay a 3% portion of their monthly salary. This will increase in increments up to 5% until 2024-2025.

What is the penalty for missed payments?

Members who are not able to pay after the due date will be imposed a fine and will still be required to pay the unpaid amount, with the addition of a monthly compounded interest of 1.5%.

Who is affected by this?

All Philippine passport holders will be made to pay, including:

  1. Land-based OFWs
  2. Seafarers at sea-based OFWs
  3. Dual citizens
  4. Permanent residents
  5. Undocumented
  6. Overseas Filipinos in distress

How will OFWs be affected?

Regular contribution to PhilHealth is part of the OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate), therefore no OEC will be issued to OFWs who cannot pay their respective dues for PhilHealth. Duterte broke his campaign promise to strike down the OEC requirement. At present, there have only been additional requirements such as this regular PhilHealth premium payment.

How will undocumented, dual citizens and permanent residents or green card holders be affected?

Undocumented, dual citizens, and permanent residents will still be affected as long as they hold transactions with the Embassy and the consulate, such as the process of renewing their passports. In these transactions the government will be charging a fee due to unpaid premium. This is what happened when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos passed EO 857 or the required remittance of migrant workers during the 1970s.

What is the UHC Law?

The Universal Healthcare or UHC Law is a law that Duterte himself has personally approved which enacts mandatory membership into PhilHealth as well as premium increase. PhilHealth merely implements what is dictated by the law. However, as long as the UHC Law remains enacted, we can still expect OFWs to be charged even after the collection has been suspended. 

Why do we have to oppose Philhealth Mandatory membership and premium increase?

This is yet another burden to the majority of overseas Filipinos that are unable to make use of these services since there are no PhilHealth-accredited hospitals nor facilities outside of the Philippines. Aside from this, the majority of overseas Filipinos have their own healthcare insurance due to this being required at their respective jobs, which is why this is clearly an additional fee and another piece of evidence that OFWs are used as cash cows to foot the bill and meet the UHC Law’s budget needs.

Due to the resounding opposition of overseas Filipinos, PhilHealth’s implementation of the mandatory membership and collection was suspended. Why do we still need to oppose it?

The suspension of the implementation of the mandatory membership and the premium increase is not the answer, especially when Vice President for Corporate Affairs of PhilHealth, Dr. Shirely Domingo, herself stated that beginning in June 2020, the premium increase based on the UHC Law will be implemented. We call not only for the suspension, but also for junking the mandatory collection and premium increases. However, this will only happen if the UHC itself is amended.

What can we do?

Join the call to scrap the mandatory membership and premium increase. We need to demand accountability from Duterte for his promise of making PhilHealth membership voluntary. Let us challenge his administration to certify as urgent the proposed amendments to the UHC Law. In the same vein, let us collectively convince our Congress representatives to approve UHC amendments by indicating their approval of House Bill 6698, submitted by the Makabayan Bloc.

One may write to Congress representatives, including the House Committee on Health, at the following email address: horhealth@yahoo.com.

Reference:

  1. PhilHealth mandatory membership and premium increase language
  2. Filipino migrant groups’ joint statement 
  3. Makabayan bloc’s House bill 6698 to amend the Universal Healthcare Act
  4. Overseas Filipinos’ global online rally against the mandatory membership and premium increase (video) 
  5. Garry Martinez on the background and context of Philhealth mandatory membership and premium increase

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