House approves bill establishing OFW Hospitals

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on its third reading a bill establishing a hospital that would provide health care services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their dependents.

The chamber approved House Bill No. 9202 with 180 affirmative votes, and no negative vote or abstention. HB 9202 was approved at the committee level and on second reading last May 28.

Principally authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the bill seeks the creation of an OFW Hospital with at least tertiary level care and under the full administrative and technical supervision of the Department of Health (DOH).

The proposed law also specifically states that the facility should provide comprehensive and total health care services to all migrant workers, including Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) contributors, whether active or inactive and their legal dependents, and conduct medical examinations of would-be overseas contract workers duly covered by an approved job order.

The measure also mandates that the hospital will serve as the primary referral hospital for repatriated OFWs needing medical assistance and support and set up systems that would effectively monitor the condition of patients and generate relevant health information and data for policy formulation.

The hospital should also participate in the health care provider networks and arrangements relative to the implementation of Republic Act No. 11223 or the “Universal Health Care Act.”

Under the bill, the Secretary of Labor and Employment, as chair of the OWWA Board, is tasked to ensure that existing health benefits and medical assistance programs are strengthened to include, among others, subsidies on hospitalization and medical procedures for OFWs and their qualified dependents.

It also provides for the creation of a Joint Executive Oversight Committee on OFW Hospital to review and recommend hospital development plans and ensure implementation of the measure.

The funding, according to the bill, would come from the DOH budget under the annual General Appropriations Act.

Arroyo added that claims from OFWs and their dependents from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) amounted to P1.7 million, including those who were confined in hospitals abroad.

“The establishment of a national hospital facility with departmentalized clinical services and select specialty care for OFWs and their families is being proposed to fill in these gaps,” Arroyo said in a statement.

HB 9202 substituted HB 9194 authored by Arroyo and Rep. Angelina Tan, HB 1672 by Rep. Strike Revilla, HB 2187 by Rep. Florida Robes, and HB 4621 by Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr.

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