The House Minority bloc called on President Duterte on Wednesday (August 19) to completely overhaul the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), saying that the extent of corruption in the state-run health insurer has reached the “pandemic level” just like COVID-19.
“Ang amin pong pakiusap sa ating Pangulo (Our appeal to the President) ay kung maaari po ay i-overhaul na po talaga ang PhilHealth (is to completely overhaul the PhilHealth), palitan lahat (replace all officials), ang (the) Board of Directors pati ang (as well as the) Management Commitee, talaga pong imbestigahan ng husto ito (This should be fully investigated),” House MInority Leader and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienevenido “Benny” Abante Jr. said in a virtual press briefing.
He said a lifestyle check should be conducted among the PhilHealth executives and their immediate family members, even as he welcomed Ombudsman’s decision to suspend top PhilHealth officials supposedly involved in alleged corruption in the agency.
Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin, former Department of Health (DOH) secretary could not help but compare the extent of corruption in the PhilHealth to COVID-19.
“Ang korapsyon sa PhilHealth (The corruption in PhilHealth) ay parang (is like) COVID-19 , pandemic level na (it’s already pandemic level) at kahit anong gamot ang gawin natin (whatever treatment we apply), kahit anong pagbabago (whatever changes we introduced) tulad ng ginawa ko noon (just like what I did before) malala pa rin ang sakit (the disease remains severe),” she said.
She even recalled that when she assumed as DOH Secretary, she was not warmly welcomed in the PhilHealth, given that she was behind the congressional probe on state health insurance agency’s cataract surgery scam.
Garin said “drastic measures” should be implemented to ensure that contributions of the PhilHealth members will not be fraudulently used.
“Kaya pa bang baguhin ang (Can we change) PhilHealth?, I believe so, but it would entail drastic measures in privatizing membership, packages, the Legal Office and the Finance Office. Kung hindi gagawin (If this will not be done) patuloy na lulubog ang Philhealth (PhilHealth will remain in quandary), especially so if it will be man by some people who are not really qualified and who do not understand health financing,” she said.
“Ang pera ng PhilHeath ay hindi pera ng gobyerno, ang pera ng PhilHealth ay pera ng mga miyembro ng PhilHealth para kung sila ay magkasakit sila ay may mapapagkunan. Alam natin na napakasakit na magkasakit, pero mas masakit na ‘yung inaasahan mo na pera, ‘yung inaasahan mo na nasasalba ay malalaman mo na nilustay pala ng iilan,” she stressed.
(The money of PhilHealth is not the money of the government, but the money of PhilHealth members, when they get sick, they can tap it. We know that it is painful to get sick, but it is more painful that what your own money, your contribution has been squandered by a few.)
Garin said to get rid of ghost PhilHealth members and address the duplication of membership. “the PhilHealth memberships should just be individual membership.”
She also proposed that the PhilHealth packages should be vetted by experts, not just by a few PhilHealth officials.
Assistant Minority Leader and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo said there has to be a “paradigm shift” in the way the government provides social health insurance to the people.
“It is time for a game-changer in PhilHealth,” she said, even as she filed House Bill No. 7429 or the Social Health Insurance Crisis Act that seeks to privatize PhilHealth.
“Mabigat ang krisis ngayon sa social health insurance at kailangan na natin gamitin ang expertise ng private sector para magamit nang mabuti ang perang kinakaltas sa ating mga manggagawa,” she said.
(The crisis now in the health insurance is grave, and we need to use the expertise of the private expertise so that the money being deducted to our workers is properly spent.)
She explained that her measure authorizes the President to privatize the entire PhilHealth or its segments.
“The measure will also create an Executive-Legislative Social Health Insurance Crisis Commission to reorganize the corporation. It is also mandated to contract a Transition Management Team from a private corporation or a management consultancy firm which will implement our national insurance program pursuant to the UHC law,” Quimbo said.
She called on Congress “to immediately act” on HB 7429, even as she asked the Executive to support the “much needed legislation.”
“Our primary role in times like this is to assure the public that the situation is under control and that there are sufficient funds to address the pandemic. May renal failure na ang sistema ng PhilHealth (The PhilHealth system has renal failure). Naghihingalo na ito dahil sa maling mga polisya tulad ng IRMi (interim reimbursement mechanism) (It is gasping for breath because of wrong policies like IRM). Hindi na sapat ang dialysis lang (Dialysis is not enough). Transplant ang kailangan sa paggaling ng PhilHealth (Transplant is what is needed for PhilHealth’s recovery) at ito ang susi sa paggaling din ng milyon-milyong Pilipino (and this is a key to the recovery of millions of Filipino),” Quimbo said.