Most important gift to all Filipino families

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As Philhealth decides on their next move…


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In a privilege speech, Salo fights UHC fake news, fiction with facts

The truth is, the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law may be among the best, if not the best, and enduring legacies of the Duterte Administration. It may also be its most important gift to all Filipino families as it ushers the realization of making appropriate, accessible and quality health care to all our people regardless of financial capacity.

It is a landmark legislation that aims to completely transform the medical landscape on how our people are able to access better health. Above all, the UHC is a clear manifestation of the Philippine government’s promotion, protection and fulfilment of every Filipino’s right to health and to quality healthcare.

The UHC Law aims to unify and harmonize our fragmented health system by addressing the gaps in the delivery of health services from the National Government to the Local Government Units (LGUs), and optimizes government resources by enabling Philhealth to be the country’s single purchaser of health goods and services.

It strengthens primary health by including check-ups, screening, vaccination, and other out-patient services in the Philheatlh coverage.

There were concerns among OFWs that Philhealth is treating them as milking cows so as to implement UHC Law. That is far from the truth because premium contributions from direct contributors, including that from the OFWs, are just one of the several funding sources specified by UHC Law to ensure its full and effective implementation.

The other sources are sin tax collections, National Government share from PAGCOR and PCSO, DOH annual appropriations, National Government subsidy to Philhealth, and other appropriations from Congress. In fact, Philhealth President Ricardo Morales said that in 2019, Philhealth collected P1.02 billion worth of premium payments from OFWs, but paid out to OFWs and their dependents almost twice that amount, which reached P1.7 billion.

While most of our OFWs do not need Philhealth coverage as of the moment, their family members in the Philippines, i.e., their spouses, children, extended families, who are unemployed, are also covered by Philhealth, and certainly need its insurance benefits.

Thus, with the UHC Law, our OFW’s worry that they may not have sufficient savings when any of their family members gets sick is lessened. As such, while abroad, our OFWs shall have peace of mind, which is priceless.

We also note that the contracts of most of our OFWs are for two (2) years for land-based, and 10 months for sea-based. Their contracts get renewed three times on the average.

When they finally choose to stay in the Philippines, they often end up unemployed. By that time, their own health insurance coverage has already lapsed. And yet, they will remain to be covered by Philhealth since those who are able or have the capacity to contribute by then will partly subsidize them as well.

Perhaps, the Philhealth implementation of the premiums increase is untimely. It may even be said to be callous as it was implemented at a time when everyone is affected by the pandemic caused by Covid-19; when our people have no source of income and are reliant on the government’s relief; when many of our OFWs have been sent home, and those who remain abroad are unable to work and are in limbo whether they still have work to return to, just like many of those who are here in the Philippines.

Further, Philhealth might have been overzealous in its collection by charging the entire 3% premiums from the OFWs, and did not accord them equal treatment with our local workers who are only charged 50% of the premiums as the other 50% is paid by their employers.

In the OFWs’ case, the 50% of the premiums should be paid by their foreign employers, such that our OFWs should only pay 1.5%, and not the entire 3%. As such, our OFWs have been placed at a much-disadvantaged position than local workers.

Finally, while there may be a need to review the funding source for the full and effective implementation of the UHC Law, or amend its Implementing Rules and Regulations, or the Philhealth Circulars related to its implementation, I cannot renege on my duty to inform everyone, including OFWs, that this law is what we need to ensure our progressive realization of better health for all Filipinos.

At this juncture, any discussion on premium payments by our OFWs appears to be superfluous as the President has already decided to make it voluntary, not mandatory.

I note though that there are numerous OFWs, particularly from the sea-based sector, who fully support the UHC Law, including the increase of Philhealth premiums as they fully understand the need for its immediate implementation. (END)

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