The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has refuted reports alleging it is slow and negligent on the processing of overseas Filipino workers’ health care claims under the OWWA Medicare Program.

OWWA apprised Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas that as long as an OFW’s documents are in order, his or her claims under the system will be processed by the agency expeditiously.

Sto. Tomas, who chairs the OWWA Board, said the meticulous and systematic processing of OWWA Medicare claims are necessary in order to protect the system from fraudulent claims. According to her, the OWWA was forced to initiate probes on fraudulent claims that were obviously much more than the actual medical benefits due, and to institute strong checks, and controls in order to prevent fraud that is disadvantageous to other OFWs.

“Such controls are for the interest of OFWs and we will maintain this notwithstanding the transfer shortly of a portion of the OWWA Funds, as directed by the President, to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC),” Sto. Tomas said.

The President had issued Executive Order No. 392 on December 28 last year directing the transfer of the Medicare functions of the OWWA to Phil-Health within 60 days from publication. The order amended the earlier EO No. 182 issued on February 14, 2003 on the transfer of OWWA’s Medicare functions to the PHIC.

In the amendment, the President ordered the Fund to be transferred “in the amount actuarially needed to fund the basic OFW Medicare Program for a period of one year to ensure continuity of service to the OFWs.”

The President, nevertheless, directed the OWWA to retain the remaining portion of the Health Insurance Fund “exclusively for the implementation of a supplemental health package for OFWs.”

Sto. Tomas said that the OFW health insurance program and funds, notwithstanding transfer, will continue to be adequately safeguarded via joint Phil-Health-OWWA efforts in view of the fact that the OWWA Administrator Marianito D. Roque shall also serve as a board member of the Phil-Health board of directors.

“In due course, OFWs shall realize positively and fully the benefits they are entitled to under the Phil-Health, including, ultimately, their exemption from paying Phil-Health contributions upon their retirement which shall help ensure their reintegration into the local mainstream immensely,” the labor and employment chief said.

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