Manila: The state health insurance cover, PhilHealth, has said that its plan to hike premiums for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) next year would result in better services for them and their families.

Reacting to criticism against impending premium adjustment for its members working abroad, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth said the move was “appropriate and has been decided upon with the best interest of overseas workers and their families in mind”.

While PhilHealth contributions are largely voluntary for Filipino workers employed in their home country, the health cover is mandatory in the case of OFWs.

Recently, the state-run agency issued Circular 25, s-2013 which adjusts the current contribution rate from P1,200 (Dh101.92) to P2,400 annually starting January 1, 2014. PhilHealth had reasoned that the move was aimed rationalise its contribution structure with the rest of members from different categories.

“There is a need to adjust given that the annual premium for every indigent family is already pegged at P2,400. With such gainful employment status, it is but proper that their contribution rate should at least approximate the rate for indigents”, said Chona S. Yap, PhilHealth Manager for Overseas Filipino Programme.

The state-run health insurance agency has also pegged the contribution for its informal sector members at P2,400 for those earning below P25,000 per month. And for those with monthly income of above P25,000, the rate is at P3,600.

According to Yap, new rate for OFWs translates to just P6.70 per day.

She said that this means that migrant Filipino workers are still paying “a very minimal amount and is comparable to indigents and informal sector members such as vendors, public transport workers, and the like”.

PhilHealth had already deferred its premium hike plans before amid opposition from OFW groups. The opposers, who belong to various Filipino migrant worker groups had argued that the plan would to cut into their savings, given that, during that time, there was a global financial crisis.

But PhilHealth said given that the worldwide financial troubles have already ebbed, it would push through with the premium hike.

Aside from that, the agency said the hike had long been known to OFWs and that it had “been openly discussed for years now with key stakeholders, especially migrant worker groups”.

“We have actively brought the issue with all players and affected sectors and even decided to phase-in its implementation starting this year in response to their calls for deferment,” Yap said.

She added that the premium adjustments are necessary to enable the fund to sustain itself and improve services to its members.

Currently, covered OFWs hospitalised overseas can file claims for reimbursement by submitting the requirements within six months to PhilHealth.

Dependents of OFWs are also covered by PhilHealth.