J-1 Workers demand: scrap the mandatory philhealth member and premium increase!
We are the J-1 Workers Network composed of J-1 workers from the Philippines who are currently in distress here in the United States of America due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left devastating effects throughout the whole world. We have created this network in order to voice out our frustration in the lack of help and support from the Philippine government.
As J-1s, our families have spent hundreds of thousands in pesos, money borrowed from relatives, banks, or as a result of pawning or selling our families properties. Some in the hopes that their sons and daughters will gain valuable training and experience for a better employment opportunity in the future, and some in hopes that this program will be the springboard for a better life.
Just like the other OFWs around the globe, we J-1s left the warmth and comfort of our homes, away from our families, to live and work in a foreign land in order to give ourselves and families a better future and a better fighting chance at life. And just like the other OFW’s who are currently in distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we J-1s are also experiencing similar things: being terminated by our host companies without any compensation and help from both the host company, visa sponsors and from our local agencies in the Philippines.
We were left to fend for ourselves with our saved up money. But now, that money is running low. Some J-1s have already been evicted from their apartments and have nowhere to go, and unfortunately because we are J-1s we have received the least help and attention from the Philippine government.
And now the the Philippine Government is trying to mandate a new law that makes it compulsory for OFWs, J-1s and other Filipino who are Philippine passport holders to pay the premium Philhealth contribution, which is 3% of their monthly salary and is set to increase year by year, reaching 5% by 2024.
Due to mass unemployment, millions of OFWs and thousands of J-1 workers are already struggling to provide for themselves and their families’ daily needs back home.
OFWs and J-1s have also been pleading and screaming for help and attention from the Philippine government. An overwhelming number of OFWs are not even covered by the government’s DOLE-AKAP program and repatriated OFWs had been crying for a steady and efficient aid distribution. We, J-1s, have yet to receive systematic assistance from the Philippine government.
And now, that same government is trying to mandate a law to legally rob us of our hard earned money. OFWs and J-1s are already covered in existing insurance and healthcare programs in their host countries, which renders the Philippine government’s mandatory Philhealth coverage useless for OFWs and J-1s abroad.
Philhealth is riddled with corruption that the President himself claimed that a staggering amount of P154 billion ($3 billion) had been lost to Philhealth’s ghost patients, which most likely had benefited corrupt employees and government officials. Why are we OFW’s, J-1s and Filipino migrants being forced to shoulder government losses caused by corruption?
We OFWs, J-1s and Filipino migrants, who left the country to provide a better life and futures for our families, condemn the Philippine government’s mandate of compulsory payment of Philhealth premium contribution. We have shed blood, sweat and tears to earn every cent that we make. Stop extorting us of our hard earned money and stop treating us as the milking cows. Stop insulting us, we deserve better.
Together with other migrants we demand to:
1. Stop the mandatory Philhealth premium exaction.
2. Enforce a moratorium on all state exactions at this period of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
3. Remove punitive penalties.
4. Junk OEC.
5. Establish a genuine universal health care program through free medical and health services.
6. Enhance and strengthen the public health care system in the Philippines.