In less than 10 minutes, the House of Representatives approved on Monday, May 27 the bill that seeks tax exemptions for the proposed hospital that would look after the medical needs of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the principal author of House Bill 9194, personally asked the committee to immediately approve the measure during the hearing despite the objection of the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Health, and the National Tax Research Center (NTRC).
The panel of the House Committee on Ways and Means agreed to exempt from donor’s tax all grants, endowments, donations, and contributions which may be made by persons or entities to the proposed OFW Hospital. It also exempts from value-added tax and customs duties the importation of medical equipment and machinery, spare parts, and other medical equipment used solely and exclusively for the operation of the Hospital.
Under the bill, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – OWWA is mandated to strengthen its existing health benefits and medical assistance programs to provide subsidies to the Hospital for qualified OFW and legal dependent patients.
Also, the House bill tasks the OFW Hospital to provide comprehensive health care services to all migrant workers who are Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) contributors and their legal dependents. The OFW Hospital shall be under the full administrative and technical supervision of the DOH and will conduct medical examinations to ensure the physical and mental capability of would-be overseas contract workers duly covered by an approved job order.
The Hospital shall also serve as a primary referral hospital for repatriated OFWs needing medical assistance and support, according to the bill. It is expected to set up systems that will effectively monitor the condition of patients and to generate relevant health information and data for policy formulation.
The OWWA shall also include in their benefits and medical assistance programs for OFW the line item budget necessary to improve the access of OFW and dependents to healthcare services, the bill stated.