Gov’t studying ways to expand insurance coverage for OFWs

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Dr. Amel Adel
Dr. Amel Adel of welfare officer repatriation and assistant division was debriefing of the 25- overseas Filipino workers that arrived from Kuwait at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/JOVEN CAGANDE

THE Insurance Commission (IC) said a technical working group (TWG) will be established to look at enhancing and expanding the mandatory insurance coverage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as mandated by the law.

“[Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard P. Olalia] directed the constitution of a TWG to discuss this proposal especially that an amendatory law may be needed to implement this,” Jose Mari F. Tolentino, director of IC’s legal services group, told BusinessWorld in a text message.

“The IC is part of the TWG and will take an active role in the discussions.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Insurance Commissioner Dennis B. Funa said that there are several proposals for the enhancement of the mandatory insurance coverage for the OFWs.

These include “the inclusion of ‘war risks’ in the coverage of the compulsory insurance which includes invasion, insurrection, and military coup,” and the requirement of direct hires and rehires to have insurance coverage.

Under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, an OFW hired by an recruitment agency is required to secure insurance coverage which shall be at no cost for the migrant.

However, Mr. Funa said that insurance coverage for direct hires and rehires is “optional.”

“Currently, they are not included under the law but are exposed to the same risks as agency-hired workers,” Mr. Tolentino added.

The proposals were made during a meeting of government agencies, associations of recruitment agencies, members of the labor sector as well as insurance companies following the death of domestic helper Joanna D. Demafelis in Kuwait.

In February, Ms. Demafelis was found dead in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in the Gulf state.

Since then, the Philippines expanded a ban on sending workers to Kuwait, after President Rodrigo R. Duterte pressed Kuwait to improve safeguards following reports of abuse and exploitation of Filipino workers there.

Mr. Funa said the family of Ms. Demafelis received death benefits under the OFW Insurance Program.

In May 2014, Paramount Life and General Insurance Corp. issued a 24-month insurance policy to Ms. Demafelis.

However, the insurer paid the claim for the death benefit in favor of the declared beneficiaries of Ms. Demafelis despite the fact that the date of her death was undetermined.

Aside from the insurance benefit, the family received financial aid from the government totaling P600,000. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal