Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Departments of Health (DOH), Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to form an anti-overpricing committee to ensure that prices of face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other products needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic remain stable.
Hontiveros said this is necessary and required by law to ensure greater transparency and cut down corruption and fraud in the state health insurer’s operations.
“PhilHealth’s failure to fully enforce anti-corruption measures has potentially led to the loss of billions. We must ensure reforms within PhilHealth that will make them worthy of the taxes of the people, especially because of their crucial role in universal healthcare,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Masisigurado ng anti-overpricing body na standardized ang mga presyo ng mga bibilin nating mga gamot, personal protective equipment o PPE, testing kit, at iba pang mga pangangailangan laban sa COVID-19 (The anti-overpricing body will ensure that prices of medicine, PPE, testing kits and other products needed to fight COVID-19 are standardized),” the senator added.
“Maiiwasan natin ang over-spending, over-reimbursing, over-funding para pumunta ang pondo diretso sa mga nangangailangan, (we will also be able to prevent overspending, over-reimbursing, over-funding to make sure that funds will go directly to those in need),” she pointed out.
To help curb overspending by PhilHealth, the lawmaker said DOH, PhilHealth and the DTI should immediately convene the Independent Price Negotiation Board (IPNB), an oversight body mandated by the Universal Health Care Law or Republic Act No. 11223.
She said treatment of COVID-19 can be standardized and better monitored through the IPNB since it is empowered to negotiate with suppliers over prices of medical supplies and new technology needed by healthcare providers accredited under the DOH.
Hontiveros noted this is one of the law’s provisions that the DOH, DTI and PhilHealth have overlooked.
“PhilHealth must ensure full enforcement of anti-corruption measures so that resources are prepared for those who need it the most, especially in this public health crisis. An oversight of PhilHealth’s future spending can prevent the misuse of funds and ensure that records of spending are made transparent to everyone,” she said.
“Mahalaga ang papel ng PhilHealth sa paglaban sa pandemya at sa pag-roll out ng Universal Health Care (UHC) sa bansa. Maraming buhay ang nakataya sa maayos na serbisyo ng PhilHealth, kaya dapat ay gampanan nito ang kanyang responsibilidad at protektahan ang pondo para sa kalusugang pangkalahatan (PhilHealth plays a huge role in the roll-out of the UHC law in the country. Many lives are hinged on better public service of PhilHealth, that’s why it’s important that it takes responsibility and protect its funds for the benefit of everyone),” she stressed.