P8.9 billion funds under PhilHealth's reimbursement system liquidated

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2020 07:06 AM

P8.9 billion funds under PhilHealth's reimbursement system liquidated 1
The facade of the PhilHealth Head Office in Pasig City on September 5, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Close to P9 billion of the P14.9 billion funds released under the controversial Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have so far been liquidated, a lawmaker said Thursday.

“Ngayon po ay nasa P8.9 billion na po ang ating na-liquidate,” Nueva Ecija 2nd District Rep. Micaela Violago said during the House plenary deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Health (DOH).

PhilHealth’s cash advances to hospitals and health care providers under the IRM during the COVID-19 pandemic were previously questioned in congressional hearings over alleged irregularities.

Forty-three senior officials had tendered their courtesy resignation or retired from service, following fresh allegations of corruption hurled against PhilHealth.

Despite this, the state health insurer continues to function, according to Violago.

“Sa ngayon po ay wala pang mga pumalit (sa mga opisyal na nag-resign/nag-retire), pero nagkaroon po ng reassignment na nanggaling mula po buong region,” she said.

“The President has 30 days to accept the resignation or retirement of PhilHealth officials,” Violago added.

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Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo meanwhile urged PhilHealth to review the feasibility of its Konsulta Package, which aims to fund medical consultations, health screening and assessment, and diagnostic services of members. The package is proposed to receive a P68 billion funding next year.

“You only have 46,000 accredited doctors. And if you assume that every single doctor spends two hours a day giving check ups to Filipinos, ang kaya lang pong mabigyan ng check up is 24 million Filipinos,” she explained.

“There seems to be absolutely no way that you can spend P68 billion for check ups for Filipinos, because the supply is not there. Kulang po ang primary care providers,” she added.

Quimbo noted the P68 billion will end up as "stranded funds" and PhilHealth officials will profit from it.

“At ‘yan po ay hindi katanggap-tanggap ngayong panahon ng pandemiya,” she said.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said in a recent report that PhilHealth made an overpayment worth nearly P937 million last year to various healthcare institutions, and must refund almost P468 million in employer share, and should recover nearly P153 million in unauthorized benefits to its employees.

The findings in the COA's report on PhilHealth's operations in 2018 and 2019 were officially relayed to the state health insurer's officers on Sept. 30 in the midst of legal actions being taken against the agency's former and incumbent officials over alleged corruption even as the country faces the coronavirus pandemic.