By Noel Bautista

Imagine getting involved in a car-and-train accident, less than a month after you arrive in New Zealand. Imagine suffering a brain aneurysm as a new OFW in this country. Or imagine falling from scaffolding while hard at work a few days into your job, despite all the health and safety precautions that were taken.
Now imagine having no protection at all against the health and financial (and other) consequences of these terrible events.

Knock on wood and God forbid, we hope and pray these things won’t happen to us. And God willing, they probably never will. But believe it or not, to an unlucky few of our kabayan, those exact misfortunes described above happened to them when they were barely getting their feet wet, or were still getting the shoe-polish aroma out of their shiny new work boots.

The effects of these accidents and health episodes were profound and long lasting, affecting the lives, careers and families of our kabayan long after the incidents. But equally terrible, due to the suddenness and unexpectedness of the events, were the loss of lives, jobs and incomes to our fellow OFWs and migrants; things that will never be replaced.

Which is why, even on the cusp of a new life abroad and with your dreams almost within reach, OFWs and new migrants alike are constantly advised to protect against uncertainty and plan for the future. And the best way to do this, according to experienced and expert kabayan advisers in New Zealand, is to purchase insurance.

At an insurance forum organised by a new Pinoy initiative, Goodheart NZ-PH Foundation, experts and insurers from different areas of insurance expertise spoke before an audience of new migrants and OFWs, not to sell their products but to explain the whys and hows of insurance protection in New Zealand.

For instance, the health insurance speaker, Bobby Chua of Peak Insurance, informed us that because the population pressure on the public health sector increases by 40,000 per year (from migration alone), delays in receiving badly needed health services are becoming a problem.

Ordinary, non life-threatening surgery might require anywhere between six months to one year of waiting. Bone surgery or those more urgent (but still not life threatening) surgeries could require a two to six-month waiting period. There have been cases of patients dying a day before their scheduled surgery.

The best way to lower the risk of aggravating health problems because of undue waiting, would be to purchase health insurance, available to anyone who has held at least a work visa for the last two years.

Funeral insurance also helps prevent the double tragedy of first, the loss of life and second, the problem of returning the deceased’s remains to the Philippines.

Good if your parents are wealthy and can afford to spend at least NZ$20,000 on shipping the remains home, but the overwhelming majority of our Filipinos do not have this luxury, according to Romy Udanga, financial planner and specialist.

His Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo also pointed out that the Philippine Embassy cannot be expected to be a source of funds every time tragedy befalls our Pinoy brethren, as it is not a mandate of the Embassy to provide such. Insurance protection therefore becomes just as important to the migrant as basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.

So the next time you sit down and make serious planning, please remember our kabayan who suffered serious accidents, not just for the sacrifices they and their families continue to make, but for the examples they set. Migrant life is full of surprises, but we needn’t face them unprepared.