Pay your P930-million COVID-19 test debt, Zubiri urges PhilHealth

Published October 17, 2020, 6:32 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Saturday urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to expedite its payment to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) so it could go back to helping the government’s fight against COVID-19.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview over radio DWIZ, Zubiri said he was concerned about PRC’s suspension of COVID-19 tests that are funded by the PhilHealth.

“Nakakabahala ‘yan kasi ang Red Cross ang unang frontliners sa testing (That’s worrisome because the Red Cross is one of our frontliners in testing),” said the senator, who is concurrently the vice chairman of the non-profit organization.

The PRC halted conducting PhilHealth-funded tests for its debt, which has ballooned to at least P930 million.

The PhilHealth assured it will settle its outstanding bill, but said it has to wait for the Department of Budget and Management’s advice about some legal issues in their agreement.

Zubiri, however, said prolonging the non-payment could affect the country’s testing capability, as government officials admitted during a Senate hearing that majority of the COVID-19 tests were conducted by the PRC.

He added that PRC had also set up testing laboratories nationwide to make sure it reaches people in provinces.

“Wala naman kami magawa kasi bilyon na utang ng PhilHealth kailangan din tumigil muna para mabayaran …Wala po kaming pondo galing sa gobyerno (We have no choice but to suspend the tests because the PhilHealth has billions in debt… We do not receive funds from the government), we only give our service. We only have donors, ito po ay donations lang (and these are only donations)… Baka maubos na po ang pondo namin at di na kami makalabas pagdating ng kalamidad (We might go bankrupt and we will not be able to respond in times of calamities),” Zubiri said.

“We need to recoup back the cost,” he maintained.

“Malaking hadlang ito (This is a big hindrance) to our testing capability and capacity, so we are making an appeal sa PhilHealth baka pwede nila mapabilis (to PhilHealth to expedite payment of its debt). Para maibalik ang Red Cross (So that Red Cross can go back) in the thick of the fight against COVID[-19],” Zubiri said.