Imee: Abolish 3% Ofw Premium To Philhealth, Dares Duque To Keep His Word

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Senator Imee Marcos has filed for the permanent abolition of the 3% premium that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) pay Philhealth, challenging Health secretary Francisco Duque to make good on his word in support of the measure during last week’s Senate inquiry into the state health care insurer’s fund anomalies.

“May kasabihan, ‘Kung gusto, maraming paraan; kung ayaw, maraming dahilan’ (It’s been said that if you want something done, you’ll find many ways to get to it; if you don’t, you’ll find many excuses). Let’s stand by our OFWs and finally get this done!” Marcos said.

Marcos has asserted that Philhealth can unburden OFWs of the 3% premium deducted from their salaries, by recovering billions lost to leakages in its funds.

Among the fund leakages that may amount to more than what Philhealth would collect from the OFW premium, Marcos cited overpayments of hospital reimbursements for exaggerated illnesses – known as “upcasing,” ghost patients, and board and room charges padded on outpatient cases.

“With thousands upon thousands of OFWs losing their jobs and facing repatriation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, plus the charges of corruption hounding Philhealth, the 3% premium should no longer be reimposed,” Marcos said.

President Duterte suspended the collection of the 3% premium last May and made it voluntary, after OFWs expressed surprise over the increase from the previous 2.75% rate.

Collection of the OFW premium is provided for in the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Health Care Act.

“It’s practically extortion. All OFWs are held hostage from taking up their jobs abroad because they cannot get an overseas employment certificate unless they make an advance payment to Philhealth,” Marcos explained.

“Nor do succeeding contributions to Philhealth offer OFWs any benefit, since hospitals in their host countries follow a different health care program and do not count on reimbursements from Philhealth,” Marcos added.

Marcos also said that Philhealth has a history of treating OFWs as its “milking cows.”

Some Php530 million in funds from OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) were used by then Philhealth president Francisco Duque to print the image of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on five million Philhealth cards, aiming to match the popularity of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. during the 2004 presidential election, Marcos explained.