On April 27, 2022, Republic Act No. 11712, or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act (“RA 11712”), was signed into law in recognition of the critical role of health care workers in providing quality health care and ensuring disease prevention in the general population, especially during the pandemic. It seeks to promote the welfare of health care workers through the grant of mandatory benefits and allowances with utmost efficiency.
Health Care and Non-Health Care Workers
While the title of RA 11712 only refers to health care workers, the law also covers non-health care workers. Health care workers and non-health care workers refer to all public and private medical, allied medical, administrative, technical, support, and other necessary personnel, employed by, and assigned in hospitals, health facilities, laboratories, medical or temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, or vaccination sites, including barangay health workers and outsourced personnel hired under institutional or individual contract of service or job order basis, who are similarly exposed to COVID-19 or other threats in times of public health emergencies.
Health facilities and other health-related establishments refer to those duly licensed by the Department of Health (“DOH”), including the DOH Central Office, Centers for Health Development, Provincial/City/Municipal Health Offices, and Local Government Health Offices for COVID-19, and future public health emergency response.
Public Health Emergency
The mandatory benefits under RA 11712 shall be available to health care and non-health care workers, regardless of employment status, for as long as the state of public health emergency exists, i.e.,from the time of declaration of the public health emergency until it is lifted by the President. In the case of COVID-19, the benefits retroactively apply from July 1, 2021, and shall remain in effect during the state of public health emergency as declared by the President.
“Public health emergency”is defined as an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition of national scale that is caused by any of the following: [a] bioterrorism; [b] appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin; [c] natural disaster; [d] chemical attack or accidental release; [e] nuclear attack or accident; or [f] an attack or accidental release of radioactive materials.
Moreover, the public health emergency must pose a high probability of any of the following: [a] a large number of deaths or of serious injuries or long-term disabilities in the affected population; [b] widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of people in the affected population; [c] international exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk to the health of citizens of other countries; or [d] trade and travel restrictions.
Mandatory Benefits and Allowances
The mandatory benefits and allowances granted to eligible workers are set out below:
1. Health Emergency Allowance – the grant of the Health Emergency Allowance (“HEA”) is based on the number of work hours that the worker reports in a month, wherein he or she is physically present. Thus, hours rendered during work-from-home arrangements are not counted in determining the amount of the HEA. An allowance of at least PhP3,000 is granted to a worker who is deployed in “low risk areas.” The allowance increases to at least PhP6,000 if the worker is deployed in “medium risk areas”, and PhP9,000 if the worker is deployed in “high risk areas.” The HEA shall be released monthly during the state of public health emergency. The worker is entitled to the full amount of the HEA if he or she physically renders services for at least 96 hours in a month, as certified by the head of the health facility or by the latter’s authorized representative. Otherwise, the allowance is prorated. The grant of the HEA is on top of the existing benefits that are already being enjoyed by the worker.
2. Grant of Compensation – Fixed compensation is granted to eligible workers who have contracted COVID-19 infection in the line of duty. A compensation of PhP15,000 shall be provided to the worker who contracted mild or moderate COVID-19 infection in the line of duty and who has recovered. For a severe or critical COVID-19 infection, the compensation is PhP100,000. In case of death of the worker due to COVID-19, a compensation of PhP1,000,000 shall be provided to his or her heirs. The compensation shall be given to the beneficiaries not later than three months after the date of diagnosis for outpatient cases or from the date of confinement or death, and upon submission of complete and compliant documentary requirements in support of the claim. This is without prejudice to other existing benefits provided under applicable government insurance systems and their governing laws.
3. PhilHealth Coverage and Regular Testing – PhilHealth shall provide full coverage for the hospitalization costs of the worker due to COVID-19. Only hospitalized and confirmed COVID-19 cases are covered, as supported by a test result performed in accordance with the regulations of the DOH on testing. PhilHealth shall cover direct health care costs based on current standards for the clinical management of COVID-19. The worker is entitled to regular testing, which is also fully covered by PhilHealth, as often as necessary, based on DOH guidelines.
Other Provisions of RA 11712
The entitlement to the above-enumerated mandatory benefits shall not be construed as to reduce any existing benefit and allowance under existing laws, decrees, issuances, executive orders, and agreements between the eligible workers and their employers.
In order to ensure efficiency in the enforcement of the mandatory benefits, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11712 provide for a grievance mechanism for the resolution of disputes arising from failure to grant the mandatory benefits. The grievance mechanism is commenced by a non-adversarial mediation for the amicable settlement of the dispute. In case mediation fails, the claimant may elevate the dispute to the regional and central grievance boards. The disputes covered by the grievance mechanism are solely limited to issues arising from failure to grant benefits and other issues related to the payment of benefits or allowances under the law.