Duque not yet cleared from PhilHealth mess – Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   September 15, 2020   •   276

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) Task Force PhilHealth may have finished its probe into the alleged irregularities within the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) but Malacañang said the matter is not yet over for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duque is not yet cleared from the controversy even after President Rodrigo Duterte named some officials of the state insurer who he ordered to file administrative and criminal charges against. 

To the surprise of many, Duque was not in the list. 

Task Force PhilHealth recommended to the President to admonish the officials of the agency from the chairman down to the members of the board for their actions and inactions on matters concerning the funds of PhilHealth.

Roque stressed that investigation on PhilHealth issue is far from over.

“This is only the beginning,” Roque said.

“Nakasaad din po sa report na magpapatuloy po ang imbestigasyon ng NBI at ng DOJ, at magpapatuloy pa rin po ang imbestigasyon ng Ombudsman [The report also stated that the investigation of NBI and the DOJ will continue as well as of the Ombudsman],” he added.

Among the issues that still need to be investigated include the alleged negligence concerning the ratification of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) of the agency; the alleged overpriced ICT procurement deal; and the agency’s failure to investigate and prosecute those who are involved in corrupt practices.

Roque revealed that aside from Duque, there are also some members of the Cabinet who are ex-officio members of PhilHealth’s Board of Directors.

He further said that one more thing to look into is the concealment of records by some members of the executive committee from the members of the board of directors. 

“Kinakailangan pagsabihan ang chairman at ang members of the board including ang five members of the Cabinet na kinakailangang mas matindi ang kanilang pagbabantay sa pondo ng kabang bayan nang hindi po nawawala sa ganitong paraan [We must remind the chairman and the members of the board, including the five members of the Cabinet, that there is a need to strictly safeguard the national budget so we will not lose it like this],” Roque stressed. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PhilHealth extends payment deadline for employers to Feb. 22

Marje Pelayo   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has extended the remittance deadline for employers to February 22.

This is for contributions applicable for the month of January.

In a statement, the agency said the extension of the deadline is in view of the technical issues in the Electronic Premium Remittance System (EPRS).

The technical glitch since February 11 has prevented employers from generating their statement of premium accounts or billing statements. 

The agency said the extension applies to all employers in the private and government sectors nationwide.

For assistance, employers may contact the local PhilHealth office.

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Alleged missing P15-B fund has been liquidated — PhilHealth

Marje Pelayo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Atty. Dante Gierran of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) insisted on Tuesday (January 26) that there is no truth that the agency is missing billions of pesos to irregularities and corruptions.

In August 2020, resigned PhilHealth Anti-Fraud officer Atty. Thorrsson Montes Keith made headlines for divulging alleged anomalies within the agency and claimed that around P15-billion was missing in the state insurer’s fund.

According to Gierran, they are finalizing the liquidation report as to where the said fund had been used.

Sa ngayon po, 92 percent na ang fully liquidated. So kaunti na lang (So far, 92 percent (of the amount) has been liquidated. Only a small amount to go),” the PhilHealth CEO and President said.

As for the delays in the payment of the agency’s debts to the Philippine Red Cross and other healthcare providers, Gierran explained that, like any other government agency, PhilHealth’s operation is also deeply affected by the current pandemic.

Aside from being undermanned, Geirran said incomplete documents from claim applicants are also delaying their validation process.

“One of the reasons of the delay, of course, we are under the covid regime,” he explained.

Lahat tayo napipinsala, mga kilos natin (We are all affected, our operations.) We are less liberated,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Velasco files bills granting president power to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said he has filed two separate bills seeking to grant the president the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) in times of national emergencies.

In a statement, Velasco said his twin measures propose to amend Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which provide for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions in PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The bills authorize the president to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies “when public interest so requires.”

But this should be in consultation with the secretaries of health and finance departments as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The measures were filed after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the premium rate increase.

Velasco said RA 11223 was enacted in 2018 to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.

He said the intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized—Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, of high quality, and responsive.

The House speaker, however, stressed that the current situation is extraordinary and that Congress must respond accordingly as he called for the swift approval of the bills aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by many Filipino workers amid the crisis.

“While we recognize that the [PhilHealth] only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said in the explanatory note of House Bill 8316.

“Suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments,” he said.

In filing HB 8317, Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“We are witnesses to the negative impact of this COVID-19 outbreak. Under this pretext, the sovereign government must be given the prerogative to bend the rules of the social security law in favor of the greater good,” Velasco said.

He likewise said that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

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