5 Ways an OFW Can Prepare for Medical Emergencies in the Family

by Venus Zoleta, on category "In-Depth Guides,Money Matters,Personal Finance"

February 28, 2018


OFW family medical emergency
Working abroad away from one’s family is tough as it is for any Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). It gets more painful when a family member back home gets sick. It feels really bad to be miles away. While stressful situations like this are sudden and unexpected, you can at least do something ahead of time to avoid financial disasters caused by the expensive hospital and medical bills.
Be proactive rather than reactive—prepare for any family medical emergency as early as now. Here are five ways to handle unforeseen health problems in the family before they happen.

1. Keep Your PhilHealth Membership and Contributions Updated


If you’re a PhilHealth member who has recently started working overseas, you need to update your Member Data Record (MDR) so that it reflects your new status as an OFW. This also ensures that all your qualified dependents will receive the same PhilHealth benefits as you do.

Who are Qualified Dependents of an OFW?

Updating your PhilHealth membership records also enables you to add more dependents (without having to pay additional contributions), such as when you have a newborn in the family. PhilHealth allows OFWs to enroll the following as qualified dependents:

  • Non-PhilHealth member, legal spouse (a common-law partner can’t qualify as a dependent.)
  • Unmarried and unemployed children below 21 years old, whether legitimate or illegitimate
  • Children aged 21 and above with congenital disability
  • Foster child
  • Non-PhilHealth member parents aged 60 and above
  • Parents with permanent disability

All your qualified dependents can avail of a separate PhilHealth coverage of up to 45 days every year.

How to Update Your Member Data Record

  1. Fill out the PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF).
  2. Submit the accomplished PMRF along with applicable supporting documents (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical certificate, etc.) to ofp@philhealth.gov.ph or the nearest PhilHealth office.
  3. Wait for PhilHealth’s email containing a copy of your updated MDR. If you don’t receive it, email your full name and birth date to ofp@philhealth.gov.ph to request a copy.

Do You Regularly Pay Your PhilHealth Contribution?

So that your dependents can avail of PhilHealth coverage, also make sure that your premium contribution is up to date.
PhilHealth requires land-based OFWs to pay an annual contribution of at least PHP 2,400 for a one-year coverage validity. You can pay yours two to five years in advance for a hassle-free benefit availment for your loved ones.
Sea-based OFWs, on the other hand, must follow the contribution schedule for employees and other members under the Formal Economy.

How to Avail of PhilHealth Benefits

When one of your dependents is confined in a PhilHealth-accredited hospital, the PhilHealth benefits are automatically deducted from the hospital bill. These requirements must be submitted within 60 days from the date of discharge:

  • Accomplished PhilHealth Claim Form 1 with signature of the OFW-member or immediate family member
  • Photocopy of MDR (If the patient isn’t declared as a dependent in the MDR, submit the latest receipt and other supporting documents.)

If you’re an undocumented OFW who’s not a PhilHealth member yet, check this article for information on PhilHealth membership registration.
If you are a member, secure a PhilHealth ID for quicker availment of benefits.

2. Get a Life Insurance Plan

A medical emergency in the family can easily wipe out a year’s worth of savings in just a few months. Yes, PhilHealth benefits certainly help but they have their limitations—you can’t rely only on PhilHealth to cover all health care fees, especially when your dependent is admitted to a private hospital. Not to mention that it takes up to 60 days for PhilHealth to process claim reimbursements.
This is why you need to get your own life insurance before you leave the country to work abroad. A life insurance plan works like a financial safety net when someone in the family gets hospitalized due to illness or accident.
OFWs who want to enjoy the benefits of an insurance while growing the money they pay for premiums can opt for a variable unit-linked (VUL) insurance policy. A VUL is essentially a life insurance with an investment component, so it’s a financial protection and wealth-building product in one.

3. Get a Prepaid Health Card for Each Family Member

hospitalization expenses
A comprehensive health insurance plan for each member of the family is ideal to protect your loved ones from the financial setbacks of unexpected hospitalization and medical fees. However, if a full-service health insurance seems too expensive for you, consider the more affordable alternative: prepaid health cards.
A single-use health card—priced from PHP 500 to over PHP 10,000—comes very useful during medical emergencies, as it can be easily bought and registered online.
Another advantage to using a prepaid health card is the flexibility to choose one based on the individual needs of your family. Most health cards in the Philippines can be used for emergency care for critical illnesses or accidents, hospitalization (including medicines and treatments during confinement), or preventive care (including outpatient consultations).

4. Build a Family Emergency Fund

Does your family set aside a portion of your remittances for an emergency fund? If not, it’s time to talk to them about the importance of saving for a rainy day. When a family member falls ill, it helps to have a backup fund in case your PhilHealth and other insurance benefits can’t fully cover the medical expenses.
Agree on how much your family will set aside regularly for the emergency fund. Keep a separate savings or checking account for this fund so that it’s spent only when it’s needed. Enroll the account in online banking and link it to the other account where your family deposits your remittances. This way, you can automatically transfer funds to your family emergency fund account.

5. Apply for an OFW Personal Loan

In case you and your family are still short of cash to pay for medical bills, you can get additional and immediate funding from a personal loan. Three personal loans in the Philippines cater specifically to OFWs: BDO Kabayan Personal Loan, BPI Personal Loan, and SSS Salary Loan.

BDO Kabayan Personal Loan

  • Loanable amount: PHP 10,000 to PHP 500,000
  • Loan terms: 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months
  • Interest rate: 17.06% to 17.08% (secured loan) or 39.43% to 41.71% (unsecured loan)

How to apply for a BDO Personal Loan:
Submit an accomplished loan application form to the nearest BDO branch. Other forms and requirements can be downloaded here.
Only the OFW can apply for the Kabayan Personal Loan. However, those applying for a secured loan with a joint account as the collateral, the appointed beneficiary (BDO co-accountholder) can apply as the principal borrower.

BPI Personal Loan

  • Loanable amount: Up to PHP 300,000 (for seafarers) / PHP 20,000 to PHP 1 million (for land-based OFWs)
  • Loan terms: 1 month less employment contract (for seafarers) / 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months (for land-based OFWs)
  • Interest rate: 29.52% to 31.32% (for seafarers) / 25.03% to 25.74% (for land-based OFWs)

How to apply for a BPI Personal Loan:

  1. Fill out the online application form.
  2. Take a photo of your supporting documents: two valid government IDs and latest, valid POEA contract or employment contract with boarding date
  3. Email the images to personal_loan@bpi.com.ph.
  4. Wait for BPI’s email confirming receipt of your loan application.

SSS Salary Loan

  • Loanable amount: One or two months’ worth of salary
  • Loan terms: 24 months
  • Interest rate: 10%

How to apply for an SSS Salary Loan:
OFW-members can conveniently file their SSS loan application online via the My.SSS web facility.
OFWs may also apply for a salary loan at the SSS Foreign Representative Office in their country of employment. If there’s no SSS office in the location, an OFW can authorize a family member to submit the loan application on his or her behalf at any SSS branch.
SSS Salary Loan applicants need to submit these documents:

Additional requirements for authorized representatives:

  • Authorized representative’s UMID card, SSS ID, or two valid IDs
  • A letter of authority with signatures of the OFW and authorized representative

Final Thoughts

With ample preparation in place, you can ease the financial impact of any medical emergency in the family. Remember: be proactive rather than reactive to avoid regrets.

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