The Universal Health Care (UHC) program should still be supported and funded by Congress despite the controversies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHeallth), Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Monday.
“Despite the shameless corruption in PhilHealth, the 2021 Universal Health Care budget deserves full support from Congress,” Lacson said.
He, however, said that the health insurance program must be made “more meaningful by immediately putting in jail all those who stole our money, directly or otherwise.”
“That said, a PhilHealth under new leadership should make sure that the funds it gets for 2021 to implement the Universal Health Care Act go to the intended beneficiaries instead of its favored few,” he added.
“In the same way that Congress will contribute to the success of the Universal Health Care Act, PhilHealth and the other agencies tasked with implementing it should not contribute to its failure,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III had earlier assured that the funds intended for the implementation of the national health insurance program will remain.
He said some senators met Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado over the weekend on the P4.506-trillion proposed 2021 national budget, wherein they also discussed the proposed allocation for PhilHealth.
The government-run corporation, which was mandated to implement the UHC, has been allotted a budget of P71.4 billion.
“Oo, hindi pwedeng galawin kasi nakatuon pa rin sa pandemic ‘yon, at saka pang alalay pa rin habang hindi natin nalilinawan ‘yong mga iba pang nire-review, pinag aaralan pa at hinahanap pa na finances ng PhilHealth (Yes, we cannot realign those because it will still be used to respond to the pandemic, and also as an assistance while the PhilHealth reviews its programs and finances). Hindi pwedeng pabayaan ‘yon (We cannot abandon the UHC program),” Sotto said in radio interview.
“Mabibigay ‘yon, palagay ko walang problema (It will be given to the PhilHealth, I think we will have no problem with that),” he assured.
For his part, Sotto said that with the recent appointment of new PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dante Gierran, he said he is at ease that the P71-billion proposed fund for the agency will not be misused.
“Sa ngayon komportable ako sa mga namumuno (For now, I am comfortable with the current leadership). At saka ‘yong oversight functions namin kailangan gamiting mabuti, kasi dala na tayo (But we will still have to exercise our oversight functions, because we have learned our lesson).”
PhilHealth is currently in hot water over new claims of corruption and anomalies in the implementation of its reimbursement program during the COVID-19, as well as alleged irregularities in its planned procurement of an information technology system. Allegations about the so-called “PhilHealth mafia” floated anew.
The Senate Committee on Finance, led by Sen. Sonny Angara, is scheduled to start its deliberation on the 2021 budget on Wednesday, September 9.