‘Drastic reforms needed to cleanse Philhealth of systemic corruption’ — Lacson

Published August 7, 2020, 3:36 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Friday reiterated his call for the government to pursue drastic measures in cleansing the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) of systemic corruption as members of the state health insurance agency are now starting to lose interest in paying their insurance premiums.

Lacson warned it would be hard for PhilHealth to recuperate from its losses if its members decide to pull out their contributions.

“May nagtatanong, mapu-pullout na ba namin ang premium? Parang hindi yata pwede. Pero ang nakakapangamba, pag nawalan ng gana ang myembro, baka di na mag-register. Baka mag-opt out (Some are asking, can we pullout our premiums? I don’t think that’s possible. But what is worrisome is when members lose interest, they may no longer register. They might opt out),” Lacson said in an interview over SMNI.

“Lalong mababawasan ang contribution, walang equity. So lalaki ang subsidy ng gobyerno (all the more PhilHealth contribution will be lessened, there’ll be no equity. Government subsidy would have to be bigger),” the senator pointed out.

As it is, Lacson explained PhilHealth’s fund comes mainly from member premiums and government subsidy, though its Charter also allows the state health insurer to invest.

He, however, said PhilHealth can tap its current investments to boost its funds, to prevent the agency from running out of reserves and plunging into a deficit in 2021.

“Iyan, hindi pa natin natatanong. Dapat sa LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines) or government bank lang sila pwedeng mag-invest sa time deposit. Ito ang government bonds, pwede sila riyan (We haven’t asked about that. They can invest in a time deposit with LBP or any government bank. They can invest in government bonds),” he said.

“Kukunin natin (ang) records ng investment nila para makita natin kabuuan ng financial status ng PhilHealth (We will look into the records of their investment portfolio so we can see the whole financial status of PhilHealth in the next hearing),” the lawmaker said.

During the Senate’s hearing on the anomalies hounding PhilHealth, executives of the agency disclose that its actuarial life is now down to a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing payouts due to hospitalization.

Nerissa Santiago, PhilHealth’s data protection officer, told senators PhilHealth is set to incur net operating losses of P90-billion this year and P140-billion in 2021 if the pandemic persists and no vaccine is discovered.

Lacson said the only solution he can see to save PhilHealth from collapsing is for the government to conduct drastic and structural reforms within the agency.

“Talagang dapat may drastic na remedial measures eh, bukod sa structural, kasi systemic ang hinaharap na corruption dito (drastic remedial measures is what we really need, aside from structural because there is really systemic corruption in PhilHealth),” he stressed.