MUTUAL benefit associations (MBAs) have been allowed to operate with minimal workforces after their employees were deemed exempt from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) rules, according to the Insurance Commission (IC).

IC issued Circular Letter (CL) No. 2020-39 on April 9 to classify MBAs as health insurance providers, effectively exempting them from ECQ.

“The IC recognizes the necessity of allowing MBAs to maintain operational capacity for processing of claims from the death of their members considering volumes, as well as the need to service the marginalized,” the circular read.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) exempts health maintenance

organizations (HMOs) and insurance companies from the lockdown as they are considered health services frontliners.

The IC also issued CL. No. 2020-40, ordering health insurance providers including HMOs, life and non-life insurance firms offering health insurance products as well as MBAs to operate with minimal staffing for the processing of claims.

Staffing has been capped at 10% of the total workforce, the IC said, with only “essential personnel” needed in the processing of claims.

Companies seeking exemptions for their workers will need to submit to the IC a list of essential personnel, which the regulator will approve via issuance of a certification on a per company basis, with workers subject to social distancing rules and required to wear face masks while in the office.

“Personnel who are 54 years old and above, pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions,

with COVID-19 symptons or have been exposed to persons under investigation or monitoring” are not eligible for the exemption, according to the circular.

Companies should also arrange for worker transport from home to office and back as well as meals and accommodation as needed. — Beatrice M. Laforga