Another PhilHealth scandal
In recent years, congressional probes have been launched into allegations of payments from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for “ghost” or non-existent dialysis and cataract patients. Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, controversies continue to hound PhilHealth.
Only last May, PhilHealth again came under fire for what the Senate described as overpriced COVID-19 testing kits. The state health insurance agency then lowered the price from P8,150 to P3,409. Private hospital owners also complained of delays in the reimbursement of their PhilHealth claims – something that the state health insurance agency’s president and CEO Ricardo Morales vehemently denied.
In the latest controversy, he has described the allegations of “widespread corruption” in PhilHealth as concoctions of a “vengeful… contractual employee” who failed to get the position that he wanted, as replacement for Morales’ executive assistant who is reportedly quitting to pursue a doctorate degree.
Morales was referring to lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith, who tendered his resignation last Thursday, effective Aug. 31, as PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer over what he described as “widespread corruption” in the agency, an unfair promotion system, and the plan to make overseas Filipino workers’ contributions mandatory. Keith resigned reportedly after a shouting match with Morales during a Zoom teleconference over the alleged corruption.
Morales maintains that there are “inefficiencies” but not corruption in PhilHealth. Malacañang nevertheless is launching an investigation, with senators vowing to conduct their own probe.
The Office of the President itself will be looking into allegations of irregularities in PhilHealth’s purchase of a P2-billion information technology system even if the Department of Information and Communications Technology has not approved P734 million worth of the component.
Another issue that Palace officials said the probe would cover is the allocation of P300 million as reimbursement for COVID-related claims for hospitals in Bicol and Eastern Visayas, although coronavirus cases are relatively low in the two regions.
With the economy devastated by the health crisis and the government hard-pressed to find funding sources for the pandemic response, extra care is needed in ensuring the judicious use of people’s money. The PhilHealth chief insists that this is being done in the agency. A thorough probe must unearth the truth.