Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales on Tuesday confirmed asking resigned anti-fraud officer Thorsson Keith to talk to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) about a doctor who was implicated in the “ghost” dialysis controversy and the agency's allegedly overpriced testing kits.
But Morales denied that he asked Keith to fix the issues for him.
“I did not tell him to massage, I never used that word,” he said, reacting to the earlier revelation of Keith, the former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer.
Last August 4, Keith accused Morales of directing him to talk to PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica supposedly to settle issues about PhilHealth's overpriced testing fee that was earlier flagged by senators.
Keith repeated this claim at the resumption of the Senate probe on the alleged PhilHealth anomalies to prove Morales trusted him.
According to Keith, this act was only one of what he described as “illegal orders” given to him by the PhilHealth chief.
Morales, he said, wrote and instructed him to talk to the PACC about the accreditation of Porshia Natividad, a physician who was among those charged over the “ghost” dialysis scam discovered last year.
Natividad's accreditation as a PhilHealth professional health care provider was suspended for reportedly signing the documents for the claims made by the WellMed Dialysis Center for treatment of patients, who turned out to have died already.
“This is a very alarming case, sir. Because she was not accredited and this was involving the WellMed case,” Keith told the Senate panel.
Days before he resigned last month, Keith alleged that Morales “told me to fix the WellMed case” and “find a way for WellMed Dialysis to be accredited also.”
“That was the last time, sir. I can no longer handle the illegal orders from Gen. Morales,” he continued.
Morales, however, explained that he only sought to clarify from the PACC the status of Natividad's case after the doctor complained that her signatures were forged.
“ The accusation of Attorney Keith regarding Dra. Porshia Natividad, I asked him to clarify, not to fix it, because according to Dra. Natividad, her signature was forged in the claims, so that is what I wanted him to clear up,” he said.
“I told him, if he could resolve the issue of the case of Dra. Natividad her only source of income is practicing her profession,” he added.
Asked by Senate President Vicente Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson to explain his reason for doing so, Morales responded: “Because many doctors only make their living by claiming from PhilHealth and if they are deprived of this living, they cannot support themselves.”
But Lacson commented: “Kung may defense counsel si Dra. Natividad, trabaho ng defense counsel niya 'yon to validate kasi gagamitin niyang defense na forged 'yong kanyang signature (If Natividad had a defense counsel, it is the counsel's job to validate it because they would use the forged signature as defense).”
“It's not for PhilHealth president and CEO to be interested in finding out whether the signature of the person was forged,” Lacson pointed out.
Following Lacson’s comment, Morales then admitted that Natividad’s situation was endorsed to him by retired general and PhilHealth board member Marlene Padua. He said Padua, who is also a nurse, is “an acquaintance” of the doctor.
“I was approached by a board member if I could do something about it,” Morales said.
Morales also confirmed that he asked Keith to “liaise” with the PACC about the PhilHealth's testing kits after the senators questioned their rates last May.
“We were charged that our testing rates were overpriced, which we maintain up to today, are not overpriced. I thought that a simple clarification with PACC will resolve the matter. I did not tell him (Keith) to massage, I never used that word,” he said.
“Now, when we received a formal subpoena from the PACC, I told him to stop the liaison because it would be already interfering in a formal investigation,” he told senators.
The PACC has been investigating PhilHealth and its officials following claims of corruption bared by Keith and other PhilHealth insiders.
Belgica told the Senate they will include in their investigation Keith's claims against Morales.