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OFWs worldwide to protest hike in health premiums


04:21 AM January 10th, 2012

By: Jerome Aning, January 10th, 2012 04:21 AM

An overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) group based in the Middle East yesterday said it would lead a worldwide drive to oppose the 160-percent increase in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) premiums this year.

Migrante-Middle East described the rate hike, from the current P900 to P2,400 beginning July, as an “unhealthy money-making scheme” which “will only burden our already overburdened OFWs and their dependents.”

The PhilHealth board last month issued a circular imposing an increase in OFWs’ health premiums.

“The hike in premiums will not only bleed us OFWs dry, it will suck our blood leading ‘to death due to deprivation of free and affordable social services.’ The government, through various agencies, is killing us so softly by imposing additional fees on the pretext of better social services,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Mideast regional director, in an e-mail from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he is based.

Signature drive

Migrante-Mideast has started a signature drive against the rate hike. An online version (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-to-philhealth-premium-increase-scrap-circular/) has been uploaded to reach out to more OFWs and their families.

The petition, which targets one million signatures by July 2012, would be forwarded to President Benigno Aquino III and the PhilHealth board along with various OFW groups’ position papers.

Monterona said Migrante chapters in the Asia Pacific, Australia, North America and Europe were crafting a coordinated campaign against the premium increase.

Monterona said Migrante and other OFW groups would launch other campaigns and might even file a case in court to oppose the PhilHealth order.

Act prohibits  fee increases

He pointed out that Republic Act No. 10022, or the Amended Migrant Workers Act of 2010, prohibits increases in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents.

“Besides, there were no consultations with OFW groups conducted by the PhilHealth board so they can’t impose it onerously without a proper dialogue with the stakeholders—the OFWs and their families,” Monterona added.

Monterona recalled that in 2005, the Arroyo administration initiated the transfer of P530 million from the OFW Medicare program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to PhilHealth supposedly without a proper consultation and dialogue with OFWs.

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