Sat. Jul 24th, 2021

MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday recommended relief measures to ease the financial burden of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) concerning the premium contributions to Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and penalties for missing payment deadlines amid the coronavirus crisis.

In an aide-memoire addressed to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda proposed lowering the premium contributions of OFWs in recognition of the social costs of the nature of their employment, their unique economic contribution, and in the most practical sense, their reduced utilization of the program.

“OFWs are very high net contributors to the program. We estimate that OFWs were due to pay around PHP24.75 billion in 2019, which is around the same amount PhilHealth paid out in claims for the entire formal sector just the year before. It’s obvious that we will need to adjust to balance the equity,” Salceda said.

“Under my proposal, instead of PHP28.3 billion in 2020, OFWs will pay only PHP8.6 billion. That would still make them net contributors, because they would comprise under 20 percent of the total universe of potential claimants in the formal sector, but it’s a good start,” he added.

Under Salceda’s economic stimulus bill, the PhilHealth shall charge no more than PHP300 per month for premium contributions in 2020, no more than PHP375 per month in 2021, and no more than PHP450 in 2022.

Salceda noted that OFWs are “uniquely burdened” by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) with an estimated 420,000 who may lose employment due to a slowdown in global trade triggered by Covid-19 restrictions.

He also estimated that OFW remittances may decline by as much as 25 percent in 2020, without achieving recovery in 2021.

“Where OFWs may retain their incomes and employment, we expect that they will prioritize essential goods and services over the payment of mandatory contributions in the Philippines, which in turn, would likely make them miss payment deadlines and incur penalties and surcharges,” he said.

Aside from the preferential premiums, Salceda also proposed to waive interests and surcharges on late payment of premium contributions for PhilHealth.

He said the House leadership should seek an executive order from the Office of the President which will clarify: “Pursuant to Section 4 (z) of the Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, and to provide relief to migrant workers who are uniquely burdened by the impacts of Covid-19 on the global economy, Philhealth payments of migrant workers are in the nature of “charges required by law” and shall be placed under moratorium under any community quarantine. Unpaid premium contributions due from March 15 to December 31, 2020 shall not be charged interest and penalties”.  (ia/PNA)

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