COA’s report on PhilHealth overpayments supports Senate findings on alleged irregularities — Sotto

Published October 10, 2020, 6:49 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on the overpayments of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to health care facilities has only buttressed the Senate’s belief on the questionable disbursements of the state insurer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a radio interview, Sotto said the COA findings support the recommendations of the Senate after it investigated the alleged corruption and irregularities in the PhilHealth.

“‘Yong COA [report] na ‘yan nagpapalakas sa findings namin (That COA report strengthens our findings),” he told DWIZ.

State auditors found that the PhilHealth released in 2019 at least P936 million in overpayments to hospitals and other accredited service providers. It noted full reimbursements to hospital despite the lower charges actually collected from patients.

Sotto this could be used to support charges against PhilHealth officials who were implicated in the alleged abuse of the corporation’s reimbursement system.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also said that the COA report could aid the investigation of the  Department of Justice-led inter-agency task force on the alleged irregularities in the PhilHealth’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).

“Dapat gamitin ‘yan ng task force para pandagdag nila sa kanilang — hindi naman ebidensya — kundi tulong doon sa kanilang investigation. Kasi ‘yong COA report, magiging aid ‘yan, tulong sa imbestigasyon. Dapat back-upan nila kung ano ‘yong mga items na ‘yon, yong mga overpayment, kung mali ang paggamit ng pera, kasi may mga dokumento rin ‘yon, ‘yong basis ng audit (The  task force should use that to aid — not really as an evidence — but to boost their investigation. The COA report would aid that. They should back it up with documents, since the audit has basis),” Lacson said in a separate DWIZ interview.

The Senate Committee of Whole conducted in August a legislative inquiry on the reported rampant corruption in the PhilHealth, which includes its releases under the IRM.

The committee found that some P14 billion the PhilHealth issued thru the IRM in late March to June 9 were “illegal and invalid”, and that “hasty” payments were made to a dialysis center instead of tertiary hospitals that cater to COVID-19 patients.

The panel’s report was later adopted by the Senate, formally recommending malversation and graft charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, ex-PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and other officials.

Following the task force’s probe, the government filed complaints against Morales and other PhilHealth senior officials.