THE head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Monday, May 4, clarified that collection of premium contributions has already been suspended until May 30, 2020 in line with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales also said they were looking at extending the moratorium since the public health crisis arising from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic is not likely to be over by May 30, 2020.
“Actually, nag-release na tayo ng pronouncement na ire-relax natin yung collection period. May moratorium hanggang May 30, ano, kasi yun din ang spirit ng Bayanihan law along with GSIS and SSS,” Morales said during the government’s Laging Handa online forum Monday.
(Actually, we have already released a pronouncement that we are imposing a moratorium on collection of premium contributions until May 30 in the spirit of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, just like GSIS and SSS.)
“Pero ngayon, since I’m sure hindi pa naman matatapos ito ng May 30, we’re looking at a longer period of the moratorium. So, in effect, flexible payment period,” he added.
(Since this crisis is not likely to be over by May 30, we’re looking at extending the moratorium.)
As this developed, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has directed PhilHealth to make payment of premium contributions by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) voluntary during this global crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Based on this directive, Roque said Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has suspended the implementation of Section 10.2.C of the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Health Care Act.
This regulation requires OFWs to pay their PhilHealth premium contributions prior to the issuance of the overseas employment certificate (OEC), a document that departing migrant workers must present at the airport.
Roque announced that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration have assured that payment of PhilHealth premium contributions is not required for the issuance of the OEC.
Morales, during the Laging Handa briefing, said they did not place emphasis on the moratorium on collections because there are still members who would like to pay their premium contributions.
“The reason na hindi natin masyadong giniit itong moratorium sa payment kasi meron din namang mga members na gustong magbayad. So hindi naman natin tatanggihan yon dahil kailangan ma-sustain yung pondo,” Morales said.
He also clarified that PhilHealth premium contributions have been increased since 2019. The rate increase scheduled for this year is only 0.25 percent to bring the rate to 3.0 percent of a member’s monthly salary.
The decision to suspend collection and make premium payments voluntary for OFWs came after an online petition urged PhilHealth to stop the rate increase for migrant workers.
The online petition drew around 300,000 supporters.
“It is very unfortunate that they call OFWs modern heroes and yet they penalize us with such directives. We urge PhilHealth to reverse this directive as this is unfair and an abuse to our migrant workers,” the petition read.
Morales clarified that the rate increase covers not only OFWs, but all members.
Under the UHC Act, all Filipinos, including OFWs, are covered by the national health insurance program. (MVI/Jove T. Moya/SunStar Philippines)