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Bohol SP addresses credit coop's medical aid fund deductions

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, September 8 (PIA) -- The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Committee on Personnel and Related Policies led by Board Member Elpidio Bonita has addressed the complaints of members being charged with health care premiums without prior agreement by a credit cooperative.

It was through Ramil Rodela, a member of Cebu Court of First Instance (Cebu CFI) Community Cooperative that the SP learned that members of the credit cooperative were imposed with health care premiums in the company’s Mutual Medical Assistance Fund (MMAF) without any agreed legal instruments, such as duly signed contract or policy that details the premium fees, coverage, and their accredited health institutions.

When he realized the deductions were made without his knowledge, Rodela withdrew his membership, however, his resignation was still subject to his being cleared of all his outstanding health care obligations, which he did not know existed.

Rodela’s experience was the same with another Capitol employee, Fortunato Cosap.

Cosap, whose Cebu CFI membership started in 2012, claimed he had no idea he has existing obligations with the coop.

Created to free employees from “loan sharks,” Cebu CFI pooled funds from its personnel and friends into a common fund to lend to employees at enticing rates.

Over the years, CFI expanded to government and private offices and establishments, prompting the name Community to be added in its official business name. 

During the SP Committee hearing, Cebu CFI Manager in Bohol, Guadalupe Rollan, explained that the MMAF is a built-in healthcare offered upon membership, and that it was explained as part of the orientation after the application of membership.  

Meanwhile, Cebu CFI Regional Manager Junalyn Guzman said that CFI sends notices to members’ attendance to annual general assembly where updates and programs are shared with the members.

She added that prior to pandemic, MMAF was optional, and that members who own healthcare policies with other providers may not avail of the MMAF.

By 2020, however, CFI management updated the MMAF from optional to mandatory for all members through a virtual General Assembly decision by members.

Board Member Gloria Gementiza stressed that members should be given the option whether to avail of the MMAF or not.

As Cebu CFI is a cooperative and not an insurance company, it does not have a policy, but rather a pooled fund where members help one another during unexpected and unwanted health crisis through the premiums paid, CFI said.

In Bohol, Cebu CFI tapped Bohol Doctors Hospital as the sole accredited health institution, and that the MMAF can only be availed by a member who is actively paying for the MMAF premium of P520 per month or P6,240 deposited to the pooled fund of the CFI.

It is also a policy for the cooperative to ban a member from withdrawing his membership until he fully settles his obligations and dues, including the MMAF premium.

Human Resource and Development Officer Anne Mariquit Oppus said the Memorandum of Agreement, which former Gov. Erico Aumentado signed with CFI in 2002, was limited to the payment scheme of the loan obligations of its members, leading her to ask the cooperative for a copy of any agreement with members allowing the Provincial Treasurer’s Office to deduct, of which there was none.

A lawyer at the Provincial Legal Office, Atty. Alona Cristal, pointed out the irregularities such as the absence of signed agreement or contract by member upon availing of the loan, and health insurance, and the creditor allegedly fails in the compliance with the Truth in Lending Act or Republic Act No. 3765.

This law requires creditors’ full disclosure of information incident to a credit transaction.

Cristal argued that prior to the deduction or offering a loan, there must be a promissory note which embodies all the requirements of the law, and a separate document or a promissory note that states that the employee may or may not avail of MMAF.

In case the employee should avail, CFI must have a separate agreement that itemizes all those terms and conditions for the members to understand the MMAF.

Cristal bared that since CFI failed to comply with the requirements of law and with the virtual assembly possibly not  getting the required minimum attendance requirements, there is a possibility of condoning the MMAF premium contributions.

While the CFI legal department studies the Committee Hearing proceedings and issues, the SP Committee moved to pass a resolution requesting Cebu CFI Community Cooperative to provide the Provincial Government here a draft document of Promissory Note with Authority to Deduct to be reviewed by the Provincial Legal Office.

The committee, in another resolution, is requesting the Governor’s Office to revisit the 2002 Memorandum of Agreement for appropriate amendments, with all the terms and conditions subsequently to be reviewed by the Provincial Legal Office and submit to CFI for concurrence.

For the need to get information through the members, the SP Committee resolved to request Cebu CFI- Bohol Branch to conduct this year’s Emergency Congress with its Members to answer all concerns and issues, particularly the MMAF, furnish each member a Statement of Account especially on the MMAF, and hold in abeyance the collection of premiums for the MMAF until the said issues are resolved.

The Committee also asked the Provincial Legal Office and Bohol Provincial Employees League (BOPEL) to extend assistance to personnel of the provincial government with legal problems with the Cebu CFI. (RAHC/PIA-7 Bohol)

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Rey Anthony Chiu

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Region 7

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