There is 'hope for reform' in PhilHealth, says gov't corp council

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2020 03:35 PM

MANILA - There is "hope for reform" in embattled state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), the agency tasked to manage government corporations said Wednesday.

The Governance Council for GOCCs (GCG), authorized to reorganize all government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), has created an ad hoc committee to look into PhilHealth and is coordinating with government's task force investigating its supposed anomalies, its chairman Samuel Dagpin Jr. said.

"There is a hope for reform really. I already mentioned earlier that the claims and benefits portion of the health care system is the one having problems," he told senators during a committee budget hearing.

"We’re waiting for the order from the Office of the President in relation to the findings of the Department of Justice."

The GCG in 2017 recommended that PhilHealth's management be transferred to the Department of Finance from the Department of Health, Dagpin said.

"Primarily because this is an insurance business. Health is just an effect of how it will conduct its system," he said.

PhilHealth is the "main GOCC handling claims and benefits" of the health care system, which was why it hasn't been so far abolished, Dagpin said when Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian raised the state insurer's "trend of underperformance" in its corporate government scorecard.

"We have a single payer health care system, it’s our through and through operations," Dagpin said.

Gatchalian, vice-chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, also questioned the appointment of former PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales to the state insurer's top post as the GCG has among its mandates the recommendation of members of the board of directors of GOCCs to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dagpin said the GCG, however, only recommended Morales to sit as a director, while PhilHealth executives were the ones who voted for Morales as president and CEO and Duterte appointed him to the post.

When asked for recommendations on how to better manage GOCCs, Dagpin said giving the agency subpoena powers would allow it to compel government firms to submit documents it needs.

"We’re asking to have subpoena powers. When we ask for documents, it’s more of a request for compliance to our programs. It will be a great help in ferreting out all those problems," he said.

Sen. Imee Marcos urged the agency, which is under the Office of the President, to ask the Executive Secretary to compel government agencies to submit required documents.


Gatchalian asked the agency to be "more aggressive" in its recommendation of abolishment and reformation of GOCCs as taxpayers subsidized some P218 billion for their operations in 2018 while the firms gave back some P47 billion in dividends.

The GCG, which currently has some 118 GOCCs under its helm, is asking for a P192.08 million budget for 2021, a 1.16 percent increase from this year's P189.88 million.

"More or less government still held out P157 billion in subsidies. In other words, government is still not getting its return on its money," he said. 

"I'm not calling for immediate abolition, what I'm saying is unless they shape up and make money for government I don’t see the point of these corporations existing."

Sen. Nancy Binay, meantime, asked the body to expedite its liquidation of abolished state agencies. The GCG has so far abolished 30 GOCCs since its creation in 2011, Dagpin said.

Marcos also asked the agency when it would implement the compensation system for government employees based on their performance as it has been delayed for some 8 years now.

The enforcement was delayed as another study was conducted after the previous administration found the policy was centered more on the top management of GOCCs, Dagpin said.

The agency has reviewed its salary structure and will present it to the GCG en banc "in a week or 2," after which it will be forwarded to the Office of the President for approval, said GCG commissioner Marites Doral.

The GCG's proposed budget is endorsed to the Senate plenary where it will be asked for its plans to increase its fund utilization rate currently at 30 percent, Gatchalian said.