House Deputy Speaker Antique Rep. Loren Legarda has called on the House Committees on Public Accounts and Good Government and Public Accountability to “dig deeper” and include in their probe the budgetary augmentation support given to the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) under the national budget from fiscal years 2017 to 2018.
The House leader made the call as Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, vowed to look into the P14 billion in advanced payments the PhilHealth made to hospitals for COVID-19 cases “in detail for any sign of fraud and or overpayment.”
“The misuse of Philhealth funds is unconscionable especially during this time of the pandemic when the health of the people is on the line,” Loren said.
As former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, Loren said she sponsored the augmentation of the PhilHealth budget by P3 billion under the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to ensure that health services are also extended to indigent non-member patients through a point of service (POS) program.
“I continued this under the 2018 budget for the same amount, and even included another P3.5 billion specifically for government employees because the health of the public deserves to be on top of government priorities,” Loren added.
She said the use of 2017 and 2018 PhilHealth budget augmentation should be reviewed, since it was supposed to “fulfil the spirit” of Republic Act No. 10606 or the National Insurance Act of 2013, which she authored and aims to ensure universal healthcare coverage for all Filipinos.
“I urge the House Committees to dig deeper and expand their inquiry into the status of these amendments. The augmentations were supposed to cover all Filipinos, even those not yet enrolled in PhilHealth, those not formally employed, and those financially incapable to pay their membership contributions can still avail of free health services in government hospitals in the country,” Loren said.
“It is intended to be a mandatory health care for the poor as everyone deserves to receive proper health care. I hope that these benefits have been made known to the poorest households who are the intended beneficiaries.”
Loren expressed hope that the joint House panel will give in to her request, as it continues its probe on the alleged irregularities in PhilHealth next week.
“This ongoing investigation will hopefully exact accountability from the concerned officials, deter anyone from furthering committing wrongful acts that will dissipate government resources and, more importantly, solutions will be arrived to introduce much needed reforms in this corporation. The progress of our country depends on how we create growth for the benefit of our people, especially those in the marginalized sectors and not just the growth of one’s pockets,” she said.