Recognizing the need for improved social protection for vulnerable persons consonant to the Labor and Employment Plan 2010-2016, the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC), an attached agency of the DOLE chaired by Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, had approved meaningful policies in 2013 that benefit workers in the public and private sector who are injured or are casualties of work-related contingencies.
“The ECC has become more relevant in 2013 because of its efforts to improve social protection for vulnerable workers and workers which have been affected by work-related injuries,” said Baldoz.
The labor and employment chief said that first among the reform policies the ECC had approved during the past year was a 10 percent across the board increase in EC pension for the private sector.
“This will benefit about 20,000 private sector EC disability and survivorship pensioners receiving an average of P3,200 EM pension per month.
Baldoz said the ECC had also increased the funeral benefit for both the public and private sectors from P10,000 to P20,000. Dependents of about 600 workers claim for EC funeral benefits yearly.
“For 20 years since 1993, the amount of EC funeral benefit in the private sector remained at P10,000. In September 2012, the ECC increased the funeral benefit in the public sector to the same amount, and this was approved through E. O. 135 dated April 23, 2013. The previous amount was P3,000 which was remained since 1987. Executive orders to implement these new benefits are to be issued by the Office of the President.
“The increase in EC funeral benefit for the public sector is now equal to the EC funeral benefit for the private sector,” Baldoz said.
The ECC also lifted the suspension of payment of EC medical reimbursement for retired or separated workers in the public sector, benefiting workers whose reimbursement of hospitalization and medicine expenses were suspended as part of the prioritization policy in the payment of EC benefits implemented for the public sector in 2003.
This complements the lifting of the suspension in the payment of EC death benefits (survivorship pension) beyond the five-year guaranteed period for the public sector.
“The ECC Board approved the policy reform in July 2012 and now benefits over 10,000 public sector workers,” the labor and employment chief said.
In 2013, ECC likewise revised the conditions for the compensability of osteoarthritis, amending Item No. 24 of the ECC List of Occupational Diseases. Now classified as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), the revised conditions provide a more comprehensive categorization of the variants of MSD that are work-related (other than osteoarthritis only) in order to facilitate the identification of MSD that are work-related. There is an increasing number of EC cases under MSD that have been approved in the past two years.
“As a response to the recent calamities in the Visayas and the call for government to do its share in easing the life of the victims of these calamities, ECC approved the grant of an advance three-month pension for EC pensioners in the private sector in areas affected by typhoon Yolanda, Bohol and Cebu earthquakes and the Zamboaga crisis.
“This complements similar measures effected by SSS for its members,” Baldoz added.
Other policies approved by the ECC Board in 2013 include the following:
1. Grant of sick leave benefits and other similar benefits voluntarily provided by employers does not bar the grant of EC temporary or permanent disability benefits;
2. Automatic accreditation by the Commission of government and private hospitals duly licensed by DOH and accredited by PhilHealth and physicians duly licensed by the Professional Regulation Commission for purposes of processing of payment for medical services;
3. Submission by the GSIS and SSS of proof of compliance with the decision of the Commission on EC appealed cases to grant EC benefits; and
4. Observance of procedures on elevation of denied EC claims at the GSIS and SSS to facilitate appeal of denied cases to the ECC.
For 2014, Baldoz had directed ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis to continue to coordinate closely with its implementing agencies, the GSIS and the SSS, to provide improved services to its customers, particularly the process cycle time in evaluating EC claims.
She also instructed the ECC top official to review the adequacy of the present EC benefits.
“This should be backed up by a stable State Insurance Fund (SIF),” said Baldoz, who bared that the total reserves of the SIF for future payment of EC claims in both public and private sectors stand at P44.44 billion as of September 2013.
Finally, Baldoz instructed the ECC to continue reviewing its benefits and services as part of its commitment to strengthen the role of the EC program in protecting the safety and health of workers and in pooling risks arising from occupational accidents and diseases.