Saturday, January 8, 2011

Minister say migrant worker who do not buy insurance/settle hospital bills will not get work permit renewed...

It is shocking that the Malaysian government is asking that migrant workers themselves, not their employers, to pay for their own Foreign Workers Hospitalisation and Surgical Insurance. The exception being employers of domestic workers, and those in the plantation sector. I believe that this is discriminatory - and there is no justification why not all employers are required to pay.

Secondly, are not migrant workers already covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 (amended 1996)., which provide today coverage not only for accidents that happen at the workplace, but for all accidents anytime. The coverage also covers the cost of treatment, hospitalization, etc... and if what is provided for in is inadequate, possibly also by reason that migrant workers are charged 1st class rates at government hospitals and healthcare facilities, then the appropriate action would be to amend these laws to update the coverage so that it is sufficient to cover the exorbitant rate Malaysian government charges all foreigners, including migrant workers.

Since all forms of accidents are covered, and certainly all other forms of workplace related illness are covered, all that remain are sickness that are not workplace related. But, given that most migrant workers also stay in accommodations provided by their employers, hence employers should also be responsible to cover the cost of treatment of illness caused by close human contact and/or proximity, any which is by reason of poor accommodation conditions. Hence, rather than insisting on another insurance, it may be best to just expand the scope of the insurance already existing under the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 (amended 1996)..
If it is an industrial accident, are we saying that the worker is supposed to pay for it - and not the employer? This is absurd - for logically and reasonably, if it is an industrial accident, then the employer is duty bound to pay all monies to ensure immediate treatment, surgery, etc...

What is interesting is that migrant workers have no choice, and they are forced to buy this insurance only and not some other. And, if they do not, then their work permits will not be renewed... Why do they have the choice to buy some other insurance?

Now, if their outstanding bill is not settled, their work permit will not be renewed. Is the Minister talking about present 'outstanding bill', or future outstanding bill? Why should migrant workers suffer for the failings of an employer. An errant employer who may no longer need the services of a migrant worker, despite the fact that the initial agreement may have been for a couple of years more can simply not settle the medical bill - and the worker's work permit will not be renewed, and he will be sent back to the country of origin prematurely. [Some say, why can't the worker fight and claim for breach of contract...the short answer is money and the fact that any court/tribunal needs the complainant/claimant to be physically present for the case to proceed, and a migrant worker with no work permit do not have the right to stay legally in the country...]. On a platter, the government of Malaysia has just handed errant employers another method to wrongfully and unjustly get rid of the worker when their services are no longer needed.
Liow said that any outstanding hospital bill must be settled by the foreign worker concerned or his employer before a work permit can be renewed.
Another matter of concern, was the assertion that migrant worker needing medical attention need ONLY to produce his passport. But, this is a problem because in most case employers and/or agents illegally hold on to the passports of migrant workers. And despite the fact that the Malaysian law requires the migrant worker to be able to produce his/her passport on demand, failing which it will be an offence, resulting usually in immediate arrest, detention, etc.. - the Malaysian government shows no political will to stop this wrong. Passports are used like leashes to 'control' migrant workers.
"These foreign workers only need to produce their passport at the registration counter," Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Friday.
I have knowledge of one case, where a worker who got injured in an industrial accident lost the usage of his fingers which could have been re-attached by surgery because the employer took time getting the passport and the required deposit to the hospital. Speed sometimes is essential for saving lives, limbs, etc - and it is hoped that Malaysian doctors and hospitals will not just stand by and see migrant workers die, or lose the opportunity of using one's hand by reasons like not having their passport, not having some medical insurance, not having enough money for deposit/treatment. Have we in Malaysia lost our humanity?

And the proposed insurance will cost the worker RM120, and the maximum coverage is RM1,000 according to the Bernama report attached. I just met a women migrant worker in Penang that took home about RM200 monthly wages, and so I wonder whether there is really any more money available to pay for insurance. Further, lowest deposit for a migrant worker who need to be warded is RM400, and if it was a surgical case, it is RM800-00. Operation charges can range from RM50 to RM3,000 depending on the type of operation. Ultrasound cost RM100. Radiology charges range from RM50-RM600. Lab charges range from RM5 to RM100 depending on the type of tests, and usually there will be quite a lot of tests needed. So, really do we think that RM1,000 coverage is sufficient? I believe that there are certain that there are other insurance policies in the market that provides better coverage...

It is also wrong to impose a new obligation to buy insurance on migrant workers already here and working in Malaysia. It could be done for new migrant workers - who then at least the opportunity whether they do want to come work in Malaysia or not.

Personally, I am of the opinion that all medical and healthcare charges should already have been borne by the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 (amended 1996) that now provides 24 hour coverage to the migrant worker. If the provisions do not provide enough payment for medical treatment at government healthcare facilities, then the Act needs to be amended. If sickness, i.e. not work related ailments and/or occupational diseases, are not covered maybe the scope of coverage should be covered. If there is be any additional insurance, then rightly it must be the employer who pays for it, and also for any medical charges over and beyond the coverage of the said insurance policy. If there outstanding medical bills, it must be the employer that is penalised by way of a fine or being 'blacklisted' from being to employ new migrant workers, the present migrant worker's work permit must never be held as ransom until outstanding payments are made. We are talking about human beings here - not some car or motorcycle.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 (Bernama) -- Employees covered by the Foreign Workers Hospitalisation and Surgical Insurance Scheme need not pay a deposit or produce a guarantee letter to be admitted to a government hospital.

"These foreign workers only need to produce their passport at the registration counter," Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Friday.

This followed the implementation of the Foreign Workers Health Insurance Protection Scheme on Jan 1 which provides for cashless admission, he said in a statement.

The insurance scheme provides coverage of up to RM1,000 with premium payment of RM120 a year.

Liow said that employers of plantation workers and housemaids are required to finance the insurance policies while other foreign employees must pay for themselves.

The foreign workers are given three months to buy the insurance policies.

"For this group, the premium payment imposed by the insurance company will be based on the remaining period of validity of the work permit," Liow said.

"Those who fail to do this (buy insurance policies) will not be allowed to renew their work permits."

Employers who advance premium payments for their workers must seek permission from the head of the manpower department to deduct from employees' salaries.

Liow said that any outstanding hospital bill must be settled by the foreign worker concerned or his employer before a work permit can be renewed.

Liow said that 17 companies have agreed to take part in the scheme, 11 of them from Jan 1.

The 11 are AXA Affin General Insurance Bhd, Berjaya Sompo Insurance Bhd, Jerneh Insurance Bhd, Kurnia Insurans (Malaysia) Bhd, Malaysian Assurance Alliance Bhd, MUI Continental Insurance Bhd, Progressive Insurance Bhd, RHB Insurance Bhd, The Pacific Insurance Bhd and Tokio Marine Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd.

Allianz General Insurance Company (Malaysia) Bhd, QBE Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd, Overseas Assurance Corporation (M) Bhd and Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd will start their policies on Feb 1 while Oriental Capital Assurance Bhd will begin theirs on Feb 15.

-- BERNAMA- Bernama, 7/1/2011, Foreign Workers With Insurance May Enter Hospital Without Deposit

No comments: