State-insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Sunday said it would be up to Congress to review the increase in premium payments for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as this was stated in the Universal Health Care Law.
"It's up to Congress," PhilHealth Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Spokesperson Dr. Shirley Domingo said in a mobile message when asked if the hike would be reviewed.
A recent PhilHealth circular increased the premium payments of OFWs whose monthly income ranged from P10,000 to P60,000 to 3% of their monthly salary starting this year, an increase from 2.75% in 2019.
An online petition on Change.org -- which has gained 329,501 signatures as of this posting -- has since been mounted to repeal the measure, given the effects of the global health crisis from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
"I believe that we OFWs and our dependents have been already struggling amidst this pandemic and yet PhilHealth had issued a very unfair memo regarding premium payments," the petition read.
For her part, Domingo said the increase was mandated under the Universal Health Care Law which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019.
"We understand the sentiments of our OFWs. The 3% increase is in compliance with the UHC Act," she explained.
"PhilHealth has found ways to cushion the impact of the increase which is embodied in the recently published circular," added Domingo.
Under PhilHealth Circular 2020-0014 dated April 16, 2020, OFWs can make payments every three months, six months, or 12 months. For sea-based OFWs, the mode of payment was monthly by salary deduction by their respective agencies or employers.
"PhilHealth has adopted a flexible payment scheme which will allow OFWs -- and all other directly paying self-employed members -- to pay their contributions within the year," PhilHealth president and COO Ricardo Morales said in a separate statement.
"As an agency of government, sensitive to the welfare and well-being of all Filipinos, PhilHealth commits to continue exploring means to soften and alleviate the impact of premium rate increase, but it cannot change the Law," he added. — DVM/KBK, GMA News