Lacson threatens raps vs PhilHealth execs over tax payment 'misappropriation'

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2020 02:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2020 07:10 PM

Sen. Panfilo Lacson grills Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials on the purchase of overpriced IT equipment during the Committee of the Whole Tuesday hybrid inquiry, August 11, 2020, on the alleged irregularities at PhilHealth. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB

MANILA--Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday warned of criminal charges against officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for allegedly misappropriating agency funds to pay for withholding tax for millions of pesos in cash advances made to hospitals for their COVID-19 response.

Lacson said the taxes remitted were sourced from benefit claims instead of the actual advances made under the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), which is now under scrutiny for allegedly benefiting hospitals favored by certain PhilHealth officials.

The taxes should have been withheld before PhilHealth released the funds to the hospitals, he said, noting that president and CEO Ricardo Morales and Renato Limsiaco, vice president for fund management, were specifically accountable.

"Malamang maliligo kayo ng kaso," Lacson warned, citing other alleged anomalies uncovered in the Senate investigation.

"Panahon pa man din ng pandemya na hindi man lang ninyo pinatawad. Kaya huwag ninyo asahan na papatawarin kayo ng sambayanang Pilipino," he added.

Lacson cited a document allegedly indicating "inconsistencies" in claims coming from 6 branches o B. Braun Avitum, a dialysis center under scrutiny for getting P45 million in funds supposedly intended for COVID-19 patients.

The data allegedly pointed to "the possible presence of ghost dialysis patients, if not ghost dialysis machines."

The company was paid P811 million in claims from 2015 to 2018, he said. 

In 2018 alone, dialysis session in its Quezon City branch allegedly recorded 133.78 percent for 15 machines, despite a threshold capacity of 90 percent, meaning 72 sessions monthly.

"Now I dare ask – is this another case of ‘WellMed dialysis scam’ in the making?" Lacson said.