Senators were dismayed with the officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) following their hearing Tuesday on the alleged irregularities within the agency.
Senator Grace Poe expressed her disgust at the "spineless and lax leadership" of the PhilHealth officials in stopping the alleged corruption within the state health insurer.
"Nilagay diyan si General Morales (General Morales was placed there) clearly to clean up PhilHealth so that there won’t be corruption or lessen it. But when asked about it, he can’t even answer off the top of his head kung ano ba ang mga plano niya laban sa korapsyon," she said.
During the 10-hour hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Poe had asked PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales about his efforts to rid the agency of corruption as President Duterte had instructed when he was appointed to his post last year.
Senators also grilled Morales about the financial status of PhilHealth amid claims of mismanagement of funds, particularly with his insistence of the allegedly overpriced information technology system project, and the questionable reimbursements of the state-run corporation to select hospitals and health care facilities.
Poe said the PhilHealth management seemed to have turned a blind eye on the alleged anomalies in the agency, which, she said, led to a staggering P102 billion in overpayments to some hospitals and P154-billion loss to fraud since 2013.
The amounts, she said, could have been used to help households and businesses suffering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Alam ba ninyo na ang Bayanihan 2 para mabigyan ng ayuda ang ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan ngayon dahil sa COVID-19, para mabigyan ng tulong ang mga maliliit na negosyo at mga nalulugi ngayon ay kailangan ng P140 billion? So, kung ang pera na 'yan ay nagagamit ng tama, napakaraming pwede pa sanang tulungan. Kaya seryoso itong bagay na ito (Did you know that the Bayanihan 2 bill giving our countrymen assistance because of COVID-19, to help small businessness who are losing profits needs P140 billion? So if that money is being used properly, a lot of people could benefit. That's why this issue is serious)," she pointed out.
Senator Joel Villanueva said he was also disappointed with the failure of PhilHealth officials to give "substantial" responses on the issues he raised during the legislative inquiry.
"Hindi po nila nasagot yung mga tanong natin, kahit po ang average hospital bill ng mga kumpirmado at posibleng pasyente na may COVID-19 na hinihingi natin, para makita natin kung sapat ba ang PhilHealth case rates para sa mga COVID-19 patients. Naglalaro po tuloy sa isipan natin na parang ayaw nila sagutin ang tanong para hindi masabi na maliit ang benefit value ng PhilHealth,” Villanueva said in a statement issued after the hearing. (They were not able to answer our questions, even the average hospital bills of the confirmed and possible COVID-19 patients that we were asking so that we would know if the PhilHealth case rates for COVID-19 patients are enough. It seems to me that they are evading our questions so we would not say that PhilHealth offers low benefit value.)
Villanueva expressed concern that the "evasiveness" of the PhilHealth officials could affect the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law.
The Senate Committee of the Whole will resume its inquiry on August 11.