MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered state medical insurer PhilHealth to speed up the reimbursement of claims by hospitals, after its unsettled debt allegedly hit the operations of facilities battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Duterte told PhilHealth "to expedite the payment of valid claims of hospital," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
In response, PhilHealth approved a "Debit-Credit Payment Method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to Health Care Facilities during the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
Roque's statement did not detail how the method would work out. A Presidential Communications official said PhilHealth would release a memorandum circular for this.
Duterte's spokesman said hospitals eligible under the new PhilHealth payment method include Metro Manila and nearby Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.
These hospitals should have "no balance on record" of the cash advances that PhilHealth released for response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They should be attending to patients COVID-19 or offering tests for the novel coronavirus, said Roque.
"Through this measure, we are confident there would be continuous delivery of healthcare services, especially in identified areas of concern, amid the rising number of coronavirus active cases," he said in a statement.
PhilHealth last week admitted some "slowness" in reimbursing hospitals. The insurer's president and CEO Dante Gierran attributed this to coronavirus infections, which he said hit some PhilHealth personnel, reduced its workforce, and prompted a lockdown of its office.
PhilHealth last year received P107 billion in claims for the service of hospitals to its members, and settled about 85 percent of this, he said.
"Talagang may mga utang kami. May mga utang kami sa hospitals, private or government," Gierran said in a televised public briefing.
(We really have debt, we have debt to hospitals, private or government.)
Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPi) president Jose Rene de Grano in February said PhilHealth owed his group about P6 billion. The debt has forced some hospitals to cut down its work force or implement staggered working hours, he said.
Gierran, a former chief of the National Bureau of Investigation, took leadership of PhilHealth in September last year.
He replaced Ricardo Morales who resigned as he battled cancer and allegations that PhilHealth officials pocketed P15 billion in public funds, approved overpriced projects, and released funds to favored hospitals.
In February, Gierran said at least 94 percent of the alleged stolen funds were accounted for.