Health protection for Indonesians abroad

Therefore, Indonesian migrant workers, professionals, students, or civil servants overseas may not automatically be covered by the law.

Hernawan Bagaskoro Abid, Jakarta | Opinion | Thu, October 23 2014, 9:24 AM

During his presidential campaign, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo repeatedly raised concerns about health protection for Indonesians. He raised the concept of the Healthy Indonesia Cards (KIS) that are likely to be incorporated into the national health insurance (JKN) program run by the Social Security Management Agency (BPJS). However, if “Indonesia” means all Indonesian citizens, the program should also cover Indonesian citizens living abroad.

As ASEAN is moving toward a single market with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), more people will be coming and going in the region. There will be more people from ASEAN nations coming to Indonesia, and more Indonesians leaving for work or travel in the other ASEAN countries. This means that Jokowi has limited time to design a policy that provides health protection for Indonesian citizens abroad, as the formation of the AEC is fast approaching.

Law No. 24/2011 on the BPJS stipulates that universal health coverage must be provided for all Indonesians. However, the law does not specify the mechanism for providing such protection for Indonesians abroad.

Therefore, Indonesian migrant workers, professionals, students, or civil servants overseas may not automatically be covered by the law.

This could be unconstitutional and discriminative, since the state’s constitutional mandate for ensuring citizens’ well-being does not differentiate between Indonesians at home and abroad.

It becomes even more dubious and ironic considering that Article 14 of the law regulates that expatriates working in the country for six months are entitled to health protection program managed by the BPJS.

It is true that migrant workers, professionals, students and civil servants abroad have (or should have) been protected by various different health protection schemes: Indonesian migrant workers are covered by compulsory Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI) insurance, professionals and students may purchase private insurance and civil servants can be reimbursed for medical bills.

However, as those groups should join the JKN, their participation in other health protection schemes is redundant and unnecessary.

Why should a migrant worker who has been funding the BPJS while working in Indonesia not be able to enjoy the benefits while he or she is abroad? Must he or she pay for two programs, the JKN and the BNP2TKI, while only enjoying the fruits of the latter?

Worse, our migrant workers rarely use the compulsory BNP2TKI insurance program due to its complicated claims process and the lack of clear information regarding benefits.

We need to learn from the Philippines on providing health protection to citizens abroad.

The Philippines health insurance agency, The PhilHealth, maintains overseas offices to deliver services to Filipino migrant workers, allowing them to claim benefits instantly in the country they’re working in.

Collaboration between all related parties is needed to provide citizens abroad with appropriate health protection. The National Social Security Board (DJSN) should seek to amend Law 24 / 2011 to include a health protection mechanism for citizens abroad. The mechanism should be integrated and accessible through the JKN or the KIS. Redundant schemes such as the BNP2TKI should be removed to reduce costs borne by migrant workers.

This amendment of the 2011 Law would enable the BPJS to build cooperation with ASEAN health providers like hospitals, clinics and specialists.

The BPJS must enable cardholders to be accepted by healthcare providers across the region, which would ensure peace of mind for Indonesian citizens abroad, allowing them to focus on their jobs and duties, thus minimizing health worries. By performing better they will help boost economic growth when the AEC begins.


The writer is a diplomat at the Foreign Ministry.