Court junks estafa case vs Wellmed owner, officials
Aileen Cerrudo • August 5, 2019 • 596
The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has dismissed the estafa case against the owner and several officials of Wellmed Dialysis Center due to a technicality.
Branch 219 of the Quezon City RTC sided with the motion of Wellmed owner Bryan Sy to dismiss the complex crime of estafa filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
The case was filed by whistleblowers, Liezel Aileen de Leon, Edwin Roberto, and others due to anomalous PhilHealth transactions.
However, the Quezon City RTC said this does not mean the accused are innocent.
“Finally, the court emphasizes that the dismissal of these cases has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the accused,” according to Judge Janet Abergos-Samar of the Quezon City RTC Branch 219.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of the two whistleblowers, former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement the dismissal “will derail all efforts to cleanse PhilHealth preparatory to the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law, which I authored in the 17th Congress.”
“The whistle blowers remain firm in their conviction to expose the truth and to seek justice for the Filipino people,” he added.—AAC (with reports from Mai Bermudez)
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has directed state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to make premium contributions voluntary for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) due to mounting complaints from Filipinos here and abroad.
The President wants to ensure that no further load will be added to OFWs at this time of health and financial crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Nag-issue po ng direktiba ang ating Presidente sa Philhealth para gawing boluntaryo ang pagbabayad ng OFWs ng Philhealth premiums, [The President has already directed PhilHealth to make payment for PhilHealth contributionrs for OFWs voluntary,]” Roque confirmed.
Roque, being one of the principal authors of the Universal Health Care Act during his time as Representative of Kabayan Partylist in the 17th Congress, stressed that there was no provision on his version of the law that orders mandatory additional premium contribution among OFWs.
He added that it was PhilHealth that included such provision as it is the one that crafted the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the said law.
Roque also clarified that PhilHealth premiums will only increase by 0.5%, and not 3%.
“Wala po sa batas na nagsasabi na dapat patawan ang mga OFWs ng karagdagang premiums sa pamamaraan na nais ipatupad ng Philhealth, [Mandatory payment of premium contributions for OFWs was not included in the original version the way PhilHealth wants it to happen,]” Roque.
“Iyan po ay nasa implementing rules and regulations, [They included it in the implementing rules and regulations,]” he added.
Roque also clarified that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) do not require payments of PhilHealth premiums prior to processing of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) on Monday clarified that all collections of contribution have been temporarily suspended amid the crisis brought about by the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In an interview in UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan Program, Philhealth spokesperson Dr. Shirley Domingo said the collection was suspended in consideration of those who are not receiving their monthly salaries due to the work stoppage in different sectors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philhealth issued the statement following protests of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on the new premium rates imposed by the state health insurer.
An online petition against the premium rate hike has so far reached over 300,000 signatures, as of posting time.
The protest stemmed from the Circular 2020-0014 issued by the agency in April requiring OFWs who are earning P10,000 to P60,000 to pay three percent of their monthly salary starting 2020. This is higher than the 2.75% in the previous year.
Domingo said the implementation of the increased rate is stated under the Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, stressing that they are only following the law.
However, she emphasized that in recognition of the present situation, Philhealth is not collecting any contribution at this time.
Domingo also said that the agency has adopted a flexible payment scheme where OFWs and other members can finish their premiums for the year.
In a separate statement, Philhealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales assured they fully understand the sentiments of OFWs regarding the increase in premiums, and that they are exploring several possibilities to cushion its impact.
“Recognizing that everyone is cash-strapped during these difficult times, and in the spirit of the recently passed Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan We Heal As One Law which is government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, 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,” Morales said.
He said the Philhealth had earlier released P30 billion in advance to some 5,000 nationwide accredited hospitals to provide financial protection to Filipinos amid the COVID-19 crisis.
He also explained that the purpose of the Universal Health Care Act is to provide affordable and adequate healthcare to all Filipinos.
“Such a program requires funding collected through premium contributions,” Morales said.
He reported that in 2019, 44% of the premiums were subsidized by the national government while the balance was collected from individual members and their employers, where OFWs are counted.
“Benefits-wise, 36% of beneficiaries were from the informal and private sector while 37% were accounted for from the indigents and senior citizens whose premiums were paid by the national government,” he said.
“Last year, with a collection from OFWs amounting to P 1.02 Billion (comprising 1% of premiums from direct contributors), OFWs claimed P 1.7 Billion in benefits with 69% of claims attributed to their dependents in the country while 31% was claimed by overseas OFWs,” he added.
Under the UHC Act, benefit coverage is planned to be increased and expanded so that more Filipinos can be served better.
“This is the fundamental basis for the premium increase. These ambitious health goals must be supported by adequate funding collected through increased premium rates,” Morales said.
“PhilHealth commits to continue exploring means to soften and alleviate the impact of the premium rate increase, but it cannot change the law,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)
“Hindi po ako payag. Panibagong pabigat naman po sa amin. Sana po ay magkaroon ng option at hindi po mandatory,” said Marlon Sarguet, an OFW in Australia.
Alfred Busa argued that they also pay health insurance abroad but not as high as three percent and they are able to enjoy its benefits.
“Sa health insurance na iyon ng Taiwan, kumbaga mararamdaman mo talaga ang hinuhulugan mo, pero hindi siya ganun kalaki,” he said.
“I support universal healthcare, but this is nuts. Absolutely nuts. I seriously wonder how they’re going to enforce this on all overseas Filipinos. What are they going to do? Bar me from leaving the country unless I pay up?” wrote Josh Lim, an OFW in the US.
“Definitely bad legislating on the part of Congress and/or bad rule-making on the part of PhilHealth,” he added.
Even Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin slammed Philhealth, telling the agency to ‘leave the OFWs alone’ as the payment does not even benefit them .
Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo, one of the original proponents of the Universal Health Care Law, meanwhile, expressed support for the OFWs’ call for a moratorium on the premium rate hike and explained that the Law actually provides benefits to contributors including OFWs.
“I support our OFW’s call for a moratorium on the increase of Philhealth premiums in light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Finally, it is worthy to note that the UHC Law provides that those who are directly contributing premiums should be given better health coverage,” he noted adding that member contributions also benefit Filipinos who are not able to pay for medical services.
What OFWs need to know about the new premium rate hike
The state insurer on April 22 published on its social media page details of the law which explains the mandatory premium rate hike for OFWs starting this year.
PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014, first announced in December 2019, states that all overseas Filipinos including their dependents living and working abroad must remit 3% of their monthly monthly salary to the agency, an increase from last year’s 2.7%.
The law covers overseas Filipinos working and living abroad including their dependents, even those who are on-vacation or are still waiting for documentation, registered on not with the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).
By overseas Filipinos mean:
Seafarers and other sea-based workers
Filipinos with dual citizenship (RA 9225)
Filipinos living abroad
Overseas Filipinos in distress
Other overseas Filipinos not previously classified elsewhere
It’s a tiered payment computation which gradually increases each year starting from 2019 to 2025:
2019 – 2.5%
2020 – 3%
2021 – 3.5%
2022 – 4%
2023 – 4.5
2024 and 2025 – 5%
Based on PhilHealth’s computation, OFWs who earn monthly salary of P10,000 will have to pay P630 each month or P7,400 for the whole year while those who receive P60,000 a month will have to pay P1,800 each month or P21,000 for the whole year.
Since 2020 is the transition period, an OFW will have to pay an initial amount of P2,400 then he or she may opt to pay the remaining balance in full or in quarterly payments.
By 2021, the initial payment will be 3 months of the OFWs salary and the remaining amount may be paid in full or in quarterly installments.
An OFW may opt to pay in full for one year or by quarterly installments.
Payment mode for sea based OFWs must be made monthly through salary deductions by their manning agency or employers.
All overseas Filipinos are required to submit proof of actual income to which PhilHealth will compute the monthly premium contribution.
Missed contributions beyond the due date must be paid with monthly compounded interests.
The new measure takes effect on May 5, that’s 15 days after its publication in a major newspaper on April 22.
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