POEA suspends expanded insurance coverage for rehired, direct hire OFWs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has suspended the implementation of the expanded compulsory insurance coverage for rehired and direct hire migrant workers.

"Considering the improving state of global health, and consequently the opening of borders, as well as the high vaccine rollout, this rule on expanded insurance coverage needs to be revisited," said the POEA in an advisory dated Aug. 5 but only released publicly on Monday.

The advisory addresses Department Order 228, Series of 2021 of the Department of Labor and Employment, which expands the compulsory insurance coverage "during the period of the current public health emergency being faced by all countries" due to COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases.

The policy's implementation is suspended temporarily pending consultations and dialogue among stakeholders of the recruitment industry, along with the submission of an offer from insurance providers on the improved package of services for overseas Filipino workers' needs.

In a statement, Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Sec. Susan "Toots" Ople said the suspension will save affected workers at least $35 (about ₱1,700) in mandatory insurance coverage and reduces requirements imposed by authorities.

Ople also noted feedback from OFWs confused if they still need to pay for expanded compulsory insurance despite the Philippines being under the laxest Alert Level 1, and while other countries are reporting fewer COVID-19 cases as well as loosening restrictions.

The DMW chief also clarified newly hired OFWs are still covered by mandatory insurance coverage. This remains valid and in place as this was set by law, she added.

Gabriela Women Rep. Arlene Brosas welcomed the policy's suspension, calling it a "win for migrant organizations and allies who united against this anti-poor mandatory insurance and protested its continued collection."

The House assistant minority leader also urged the scrapping of the DOLE order, arguing it is an "added burden" for OFWs reeling from deductions like PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG, and SSS.