PhilHealth's execom behind the release of millions of pesos to a dialysis center -- Sotto

Senate President Vicente Sotto III is convinced that members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (PhilHealth) executive committee had a hand in the release of millions of pesos to a dialysis center amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sotto said Wednesday it is clear that PhilHealth executives gave approval for the advanced payments issued to B. Braun Avitum Philippines, Inc.

"Eh 'di 'yong ExComm. Lahat 'yon alam nila mga bayaran (Of course the ExeComm. They are aware of all the payments)," he told reporters in a text message.

During the Senate Committee of the Whole's second hearing on the alleged corruption in the PhilHealth on Tuesday, issues on the state insurer's Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) were again raised, specifically its swift releases to "favored" health care facilities.

Senators questioned PhilHealth for prioritizing the release of some P45 million of COVID-19 reimbursement claims to B. Braun Avitum and its branches while deferring and limiting payments for hospitals that actually cater to coronavirus patients.

Of the P45 million given to the dialysis center through the IRM, P11.38 million reportedly went to its Benguet branch.

Some P15 million was also given for its Tondo, Manila branch, which according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, was referring clients to Gat. Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center for COVID-19 testing. The hospital, on the other hand, has yet to receive the P20-million reimbursement from PhilHealth as of June 9, 2020.

Lacson said he also learned that B. Braun Avitum was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith alleged that PhilHealth Senior Vice President Rodolfo Del Rosario is the owner of B. Braun Avitum. But Del Rosario denied the claim.

The Senate is now looking for the owners of the dialysis center. He said the Committee will summon them to the hearing "if they exist."

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto proposed to PhilHealth to publish its IRM releases on its website for transparency.

"How to make IRM releases transparent and open to scrutiny? Post them on the PhilHealth website which requires no expensive IT software to do," Recto said in a statement.

"Enumerate the basic data: amount, date of release, recipient institutions and their facility capacity, liquidated amount, and the number of member beneficiaries. No fancy graphics. Readable cut-and-paste ledgers will do," he added.

Recto said the lack of funds or ideas should not be an excuse to upload such information.

"Need an example? Go to the DBM website. There are tens of thousands of pages of budget documents going back more than a decade which are banked there," he said.

"Bring these data out in the open because sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the antidote to the ingrained palakasan in the release of the IRM."