Sunday, April 19, 2009

Labor party demands extension of health coverage to laid-off workers to at least 6 months

19 April 2009

A militant labor party is demanding the government to extend to at least six months the health coverage for retrenched workers, saying that the three-month extension announced by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) the other day may not be enough to secure the health needs of a worker’s family during interim dislocation as a consequence of job loss.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) secretary general Judy Ann Miranda, said one of the major consequences of job loss to a worker is the inability to access health care he or she previously enjoyed during employment. Under the rules, Philhealth coverage is good only until a member is employed.

The problem with this, Miranda said, is that a time lag before a worker finds another job is long, an average of 12 months, according to a study, especially if a displaced worker surpasses the “age limit” required for a new job. Thus, stressed Miranda, “a longer extension of health coverage is necessary to protect the worker and his family during this transition.”

“Loss of income as a consequence of job loss falls heavy on workers and the termination of their Philhealth coverage undermines their health security, especially on women and children,” said Miranda.

With the loss of work-related health insurance, laid off workers cannot afford the high cost of drugs and health care. Miranda explained further that it is also during hard times that health problems arise as displaced workers grapple with stress and other problems that affect their well-being.

The labor group said the state has an obligation to secure the health needs of its people with or without work, adding that universal health care is a right and should not be treated as collateral damage resulting from job loss.

Extension of health care benefits to displaced workers is one of the demands in the “bailout package for workers and the poor” advocated by the Partido ng Manggagawa. Other demands include unemployment subsidy, tax refund, reform and expansion of public employment program, and moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

The group is also demanding the reversal of liberalization, deregulation and privatization policies, which it claims, were responsible for the country’s chronic underdevelopment.

PM, along with other labor groups, are set to launch series of protest actions to press for those demands leading to a bigger Labor Day action on May 1.

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