2.4 million OFWs to benefit from MEDplus by end-2016

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – About 2.4 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are set to receive additional financial medical assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and PhilHealth through a new program called MEDplus. 

OWWA Administrator Rebecca Calzado and PhilHealth President Alexander Padilla signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for MEDplus on Thursday, June 2.

The program was approved by the OWWA Board of Trustees in September 2015 and is set to be implemented sometime in the 4th quarter of 2016. 

MEDplus provides one-time financial assistance not exceeding P50,000 for OFWs who are diagnosed with dreaded diseases while in the Philippines or in their country of employment.  

It is designed to supplement PhilHealth's existing benefits for members under its case rate system.

Medical and surgical procedures for dreaded diseases like cancer will be covered by MEDplus. 

"MedPlus is part of OWWA's commitment to continually develop and implement welfare programs that are responsive to the needs of OFWs and their families," said Calzado.

OWWA will allot P150 million for MEDplus during its first year of implementation.

To avail of the program, an OFW must be an active member of both OWWA and PhilHealth. (READ: PhilHealth to OFWs: Update records before leaving country)

OWWA was recently turned into a national attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment under Republic Act No 10801.

Through this, OWWA will now receive government funding instead of relying solely on members' contributions.  

IRR to be finalized 

OWWA and PhilHealth will jointly identify the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of MEDplus, including the compete list of dreaded diseases to be covered.

According to Padilla, qualified OFWs may avail of MEDplus' services in hospitals and centers under PhilHealth in the Philippines.

"Kung nagkasakit ang OFW abroad at meron siyang insurance, PhilHealth will reimburse the insurance company based on the case rate basis," he said. 

(If an OFW gets sick abroad and he or she has insurance, PhilHealth will reimburse the insurance company based on the case rate basis.)

OFWs who remain active PhilHealth members will also be given 60 more days of coverage upon expiry of their OWWA membership. 

OWWA is also set to implement the program through its 18 regional welfare offices throughout the country.

'Deceitful' program?

United OFW Worldwide (U-OFW) convenor John Leonard Monterano said, however, that MEDplus is "deceitful.

"What were already covered by PhilHealth will be matched by OWWA noting that OWWA does not have any business in providing universal health care services because it is not its mandate; it’s with the PhilHealth," he said in a statement on Friday. 

“We could smell something fishy in here noting previous reports alleging that PhilHealth has depleted funds and there were issues of outstanding reimbursement due to PhilHealth-accredited private hospitals,” Monterona added. 

He said that in May 2014, Dr Rustico Jimenez, head of Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, claimed that Philhealth owes P600 million to 600 private hospitals because of mismanagement. 

“It appears that OWWA through MEDplus is funding PhilHealth’s ‘case rate system’ by channeling P150-M taken from the OWWA trust fund, a collection of US$ 25 OFW membership fee, which in the first place is the main content of PhilHealth’s  National Health Insurance Program," he said, suggesting legislators should look into MEDplus' funding. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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