OVERSEAS Filipino workers (OFWs) are hailed as modern-day heroes for their determination to earn a living away from home and their countless sacrifices just to provide a more comfortable life for their loved ones.

Our country, in general, also benefits from the OFW remittances that have contributed to faster economic growth in the past years. The money they send to their loved ones increases their living standards because they can now afford more food and quality education, health, and housing. In turn, the spending of OFW families helps boost the economy. Moreover, bringing in plenty of foreign currency helps improve the global trade activities that support the economy.

Undeniably, OFWs deserve the utmost praise and appreciation. Sadly, they still experience hardships and troubles while working abroad. They face several uncertainties which may lead to an untimely death or permanent physical disability.Advertisements

The government has recognized the importance of providing protection for OFWs and their families by enacting the Republic Act 10022 in 2009 which amended the RA 8042, known as the Migrant Worker and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

The amended law requires duly authorized recruitment or manning agencies to secure a compulsory insurance policy for each OFW at no cost to the latter. Note that the compulsory OFW insurance is only mandatory for OFWs hired through an authorized recruitment or manning agency and is effective for the duration of the OFW’s employment.

In case of death of the insured OFW, the coverage of the compulsory insurance includes, at the minimum, survivor’s benefit of $15,000 if accidental, or $10,000, if natural. The benefits will be paid only to the beneficiaries of the OFW. Suicide cases are also covered under this compulsory OFW insurance.

The coverage for total permanent disablement is at least $7,500. This refers to total and permanent damage to any of the following: both eyes, both hands, both feet, or head (comatose or insanity), due to an accident or any health-related cause or illness obtained and suffered during the time the OFW was employed. Losing sight in only one eye, or having only one hand or foot cut off, is not covered.Advertisements

The repatriation costs of an agency-hired OFW are also covered when he or she is terminated by the employer without any valid reason, or when he or she resigns with just cause. Repatriation costs in case of death of the OFW is likewise covered. Repatriation costs are those expenses involved in bringing the OFW (or his or her remains, in case of death) and the personal belongings back to his or her home country.

In case an OFW has been involved in a case while still in the country of employment, he or she may also receive a subsistence allowance benefit.

Before any person can claim for the benefits allowed in the cases mentioned above, a written notice of claim along with supporting documents should be presented to the insurance company concerned. The company will then determine the truth and the extent of the claim. The insurance provider has to make payments within 10 days from the filing of the notice of claim.

In general, the OFW or his or her listed beneficiary should notify the recruitment/manning agency first to claim the benefits. Moreover, money claims arising from employer’s liability are also covered under the OFW insurance.

Compassionate visit from one family member of the OFW is shouldered by the insurance provider in case the OFW is hospitalized and has been confined for at least seven consecutive days. Given that it is under appropriate medical supervision, medical evacuation is covered, too, when an adequate medical facility is not available anywhere near to the OFW. Likewise, medical repatriation to the OFW’s residence shall be assumed by the insurance provider.

The recruitment or manning agencies, in collaboration with the insurance companies, are responsible for explaining to the OFW, before he or she leaves the country, and to at least one of the OFW’s beneficiaries, the terms and benefits of the insurance coverage, as well as how to file a claim. In filing a claim, they are also required by law to assist the OFW (and/or the beneficiary) and to make sure that all required information and for the claim are readily accessible to the claimant.

A crucial component of the compulsory OFW insurance is that the OFW should not be paying for the premium because this is a responsibility of the deploying licensed recruitment or manning agency. If the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) finds out that the OFW has paid for the insurance premium or the cost of the insurance coverage, the agency will lose its license. Its employees will be perpetually disqualified from the business of OFW recruitment. Also, the agency should not use the insurance coverage to claim any additional fees from the OFW.

Lastly, any questions regarding the enforcement of the OFW insurance policy should be addressed to the Insurance Commission (IC) for mediation and adjudication. The National Labor Relations Commission has to decide on cases against the recruitment or manning agency.

While this article has briefly highlighted some important elements of a compulsory OFW insurance, such as the benefits that an insured OFW may receive, the details and other useful information may be found in the IC’s website.

The author is the deputy commissioner for legal services of the Insurance Commission. He may be contacted at rb.escolango@yahoo.com.

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