Gordon warns suspension of PRC, PhilHealth partnership due to non-payment of COVID-19 testing services

Published August 15, 2020, 9:57 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Richard Gordon on Saturday warned that he will suspend the Philippines Red Cross’ (PRC) partnership with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) should the latter fail to pay its dues for the humanitarian organization’s COVID-19 testing services by Monday, August 17.

Senator Richard Gordon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gordon, PRC chairman, gave PhilHealth the ultimatum as he expressed his frustration over the delay in the state health insurer’s payment to the PRC despite several requests.

The PhilHealth and the PRC entered into an agreement in May for the latter to provide Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests and augment the government’s testing efforts.

An initial P100 million was given as advance payment to the PRC for its testing services. 

However, Gordon said the initial fund had been used up and the PhilHealth now owes the PRC some P700 million for the COVID-19 tests that it has conducted over the past two months.

“Ang laki-laki na ng utang nila abot na ng P1 billion (Their debt has ballooned to almost P1 billion),” Gordon said in an interview with radio DWIZ.

“Dahil naubos agad, eh, wala na (Because the fund was immediately spent, it’s gone). Paunti-unti na lang ang bigay, eh ‘di naman pupwede ‘yon (They’re giving us piecemeal payments, we can’t always allow that),” he lamented.

“I told them that if you do not pay up, then I would have to stop out tests. I will continue it for walk-in clients,” he said in Pilipino.

“‘Pag ‘di kayo nagbayad ng Monday, titigil ko muna (If you do not pay by Monday, I will suspend it),” he said.

Gordon said that following the P100-million initial payment, the PhilHealth has only paid the PRC some P123,000 just days ago.

But he said this is not enough to sustain the organization’s operations, especially that it was also tasked to administer the free swab testing for returning overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced by the pandemic.

Gordon said the PRC is set to order 400,000 test kits $6 million, or about P300 million. The 230,000 test kits they recently acquired are expected to be exhausted within 10 days.

“So saan namin kukunin yong pera (where will we get the money to pay for that)? he asked. “Di naman negosyo sa amin ‘yan pero ‘di naman kami pwede malugi, ‘di ba (This isn’t a business for us but we also cannot go bankrupt),” he added, citing the PRC’s limited resources.

According to the senator, the PhilHealth made many excuses for deferring their reimbursements. He said he has also sought the help of Cabinet officials and even Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to compel the state insurer to pay.

Among others, PhilHealth supposedly asked for the amendment of their contract and reduce the PRC’s charges since it already revised its benefit packages after being called out by lawmakers for overpricing.

The PRC’s swab testing costs P3,500.

“They told us that we should be charging just P2,900 for our tests,” he said. 

“We cannot reduce it. We are paying for the wages of several medical technologists, we pay for transport services, we pay for a lot and they do not realize that,” Gordon said in Pilipino.

Gordon said PhilHealth’s failure to pay will also affect the operations of the PRC’s biomolecular laboratories in various parts of the country.

How do we open them if we do not have test kits, Gordon said in Pilipino.

PhilHealth is currently under fire following claims of corruption and anomalous transactions. Simultaneous investigations are conducted in executive and legislative departments, particularly on the alleged irregularities with its procurement plans and its reimbursements to allegedly favored health care facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.