Thursday, April 23, 2009

Workers picket PhilHealth to demand longer health coverage for laid-off workers

Press Release
April 23, 2009

Members of the militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) picketed the PhilHealth main office in Pasig to ask that it extend health coverage for retrenched workers by six months to one year. This was the group’s reaction to the announcement last April 15 by Dr. Rey Aquino, president and chief executive officer of PhilHealth, that the agency will give three months coverage to displaced workers.

“PhilHealth is in the pink of health thus should help workers who are in the red. To continue PhilHealth coverage to worker formerly earning P10,000, the government just needs to subsidize P375 in employee and employer contributions per month or P4,500 in a year. To cover 100,000 retrenched workers, a mere P450 million is needed,” argued PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda.

In the picket, some 50 PM members carried an oversized doctor’s prescription containing the demand for longer health insurance coverage. In addition they made mock pills and capsules to symbolize their message that “a workers bailout keeps the doctor away.”

Miranda explained that “Three months is too little since it takes around 12 months for a retrenched worker to find a new job according to an independent study. The longer the PhilHealth coverage, the better to secure the health needs of a worker’s family during unemployment.”

Under the rules, Philhealth coverage is good only until a member is employed thus one of the major consequences of job loss is the inability to access health care previously enjoyed during employment.

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

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 PM. Other demands include unemployment subsidy, tax refund, reform and expansion of public employment program and moratorium on demolitions. The group is also pushing for the reversal of the policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization.

The PhilHealth picket is the start of a series of buildup activities for Labor Day next week. The highlight of the PM-led activities is a Lakbayan by more than 1,000 displaced workers and urban poor to start on the eve of May 1.

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