MUTUAL benefit associations (MBAs) can now operate with minimal workforce as their employees have been exempted from the enhanced community quarantine, 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 the enhanced community quarantine.

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

In an earlier issuance, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) exempted health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and insurance companies from the lockdown as they were considered part of frontline health services.

The regulator also issued CL. No. 2020-40 ordering health insurance providers including HMOs, life and non-life firms offering health insurance products as well as MBAs to operate with a skeleton workforce for the processing of claims, with limited backroom services.

The skeleton workforce should only make up 10% of the firms’ total workforce at most, the IC said, consisting of “essential personnel” and others needed in the processing of claims.

Companies seeking exemptions for their workers have to submit to the IC a list of essential personnel and staff for claims processing, which the regulator will approve via the issuance of a certification on a per company basis.

“Personnel who are 54 year old and above, pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions, with COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to persons under investigation or monitoring, cannot be considered as part of the skeletal workforce,” the circular read.

The IC also ordered strict implementation of physical distancing and wearing of face masks during work hours as well as adopting other precautionary measures to ensure safety in the workplace.

Companies should also provide the transport needs of the employees as well as meals and lodging, if needed.

The IC also asked companies to regularly monitor the health of their workers, especially for potential COVID-19 infections. — B.M. Laforga