PhilHealth’s privatization gaining ground among lawmakers

Published August 20, 2020, 6:15 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators on Thursday weighed in on the proposal to privatize the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to end corruption and fund mismanagement.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that more than privatization, a “better” solution to the mess in PhilHealth is to decentralize the management of the corporation.

“There is also another idea that it is better if we decentralize,” Sotto said in a text message to the Manila Bulletin when sought for comment.

He cited for instance the province of Isabela, which he said was “successful” in implementing its own health care program for its residents.

“It might be better if we let the local government units handle it, at least, in the provincial and city levels,” the Senate leader said.

For her part, Senator Grace Poe said the proposed privatization could be considered.

“You know, actually I’ve thought about it. Yes, in a way this is something that we can probably explore. I think that the private sector has done better in managing businesses. In fact, we’ve seen that when the government took over the MRT-3, it’s actually been at a sorry state compared to the others that were ran by the private sector,” Poe said in an interview with ABS-CBN New Channel.

“But, of course, before you grant those things you have to make sure that there are safeguards so that our countrymen will not be shortchanged by the policies that they will do or increase the rates drastically,” the lady senator pointed out.

Poe said that in the meantime, the PhilHealth needs an overhaul in its leadership to see if there could be changes in the way that the state insurer and coffers are managed.

“Palitan muna ang namumuno. Tignan natin, may pagkakataon pa naman yata, basta lamang umaksyon na tayo kaagad (We should first change it leaders. Let’s see, there might be a chance to improve, as long as we act on it immediately),” she said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, believed that corruption will persist as long as there is lack in transparency and accountability.

“Regardless of the model we adopt, whether it’s private or government corporation, corruption will happen if transparency and accountability mechanisms are insufficient and public welfare is not priority,” Villanueva said in a separate message to the Manila Bulletin.

“In our current situation, we have to make sure that those responsible will be held to account. We also have to make sure that individuals working in Philhealth are there because of their competence and commitment to serve the people and not because of their political connection and self interest,” he added.

Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo has filed House Bill No. 7429, which seeks to authorize the President to privatize the entire PhilHealth or its segments. This will supposedly make the PhilHealth “more effective and innovative” in addressing the country’s, she said.

The PhilHealth is currently investigated following allegations of corruption and irregular transactions.