Philhealth gouges foreigners – premiums to rise steeply

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As I’m sure many expats have heard by now, those of us who are taking advantage of local rates for Philhealth are about to have our premiums go up. Rather significantly. No more are we going to get away with a few hundred pesos per quarter, a price worth paying, considering the poor standard of care. Now we’re going to be up for several thousand.

In fact, while we’re currently eligible to be covered on our spouse’s plan (at ₱600 a quarter), or independently at the same price, that is about to change. For those of us on SRRV visas the premiums have risen from ₱2,400 pesos per annum to ₱15,000. For other foreigners the fees will be an extra ₱2,000 on top of the SRRV rate. That’s ₱17,000 per year.

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Of course, our dependents can be covered under our own coverage but the same is not true in reverse.

In reality this is nothing short of another attempt to extract money from foreigners living in the Philippines. It’s the same as the extortionate fees that the BOI demands for our visa renewals. I won’t be bothering, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the standard of healthcare here, especially in the public system is so utterly useless that I’d rather take my chances. I have personal experience of this, my father recently had his life cut short as a result of poor medical care in the Philippines. I’m not going into details, but, suffice to say I was shocked.

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Secondly. I’d prefer just to have an emergency slush fund in a joint account which I can earn my own interest from. I got some very good advice when I got here. Sock 500,000 pesos in an emergency fund and forget about it.

Anyone who comes out here without at least that as a buffer is a nut job. Why do I say that? Simply because health problems may not be the only woes that befall expats in the country.

What happens if regime change here results in local instability? $20,000 would be enough to get you and your family somewhere else, if not get them visas, etc, in your home country, at least to another place in ASEAN. What happens if the next organisation to increase costs for foreigners is the BOI? Hypothetically, could you afford it if the cost of maintaining your visa and ACR went up by a factor of three? Philhealth just did worse than a 3x rise, there’s no reason that other government departments can’t or won’t follow suit.

What if you find yourself in legal difficulty? Can you afford to find an attorney at short notice (experience tells me that if they don’t expect to be paid up front they certainly expect you to be able to demonstrate that you can pay).

If you are out here with no plan and just going with the flow in the hope that someone will bail you out or that nothing will happen. You’re dreaming, and if you’ve got a family here and you’re doing that you’re just irresponsible.

Even with all that said, I will still pay the premiums for my wife and daughter. Just in case. 17,000 a year for access to a health system that doesn’t treat its patients? I would rather spend that on beer and chips, thanks.

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