Church leaders and migrant groups in the Philippines have expressed opposition to a government plan to make mandatory the payment of health insurance premium for migrant workers.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People said the plan is an “added burden” to Filipino migrant workers.
On April 22, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or PhilHealth, reminded migrant workers to remit three percent of their monthly salary to the agency.
In a circular, the state insurer said Filipinos abroad with monthly salaries between US$200 and US$1,200 will also have to increase their premium payment by three percent.
Philhealth said the policy is stipulated under the Universal Health Care Law, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019.
Bishop Santos said the directive shows “lack of compassion and only gives anxiety to Filipinos living and working abroad.”
He said migrant workers are affected by the pandemic because of the “no work, no pay” scheme. “The three percent mandatory contribution will make them suffer more,” said the bishop.
The government announcement was met with protests from various groups, forcing PhilHealth to announce on May 4 that it is suspending the implementation of the plan.
“We have imposed a moratorium on collections,” said PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales.
Migrante, a global alliance of Filipino migrants, said it is “not convinced” with the announcement suspending the mandatory premium increase.
“Until we see efforts to amend the Universal Health Care law, [the government’s] claim have yet to be seen given that the law needs to be amended,” said Migrante leader Joanna Concepcion.
Under the new directive of PhilHealth, contribution from migrants will be raised annually until it reaches five percent in 2024.
“The directive being mandatory is another load to carry for our migrant workers, especially that they already have required health insurance in their worksites,” said Concepcion.
Migrante demanded that the government stop the payment of the mandatory PhilHealth premium and enforce a moratorium on all state exactions during the pandemic.
Bishop Santos, meanwhile, expressed gratitude to migrant workers who have “sacrificed so much for our country and made our economy afloat.”
“Now they need our assistance and help, but instead we make them suffer. It is time to be considerate and be more caring for our migrant workers,” the prelate said.
The 2017 Philippine Statistics Authority report estimated that 2.339 million Filipino migrant workers are living and working abroad.
Remittances sent by Filipino migrant workers accounted for 11 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product of the country in 2018.
Mark Saludes contributed to this report.