Ex-PhilHealth official reveals ‘fake receipts’ being issued to OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   September 3, 2020   •   366

MANILA, Philippines — A former senior auditing system analyst of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has revealed that there is indeed a syndicate within the agency that takes advantage of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) premium contributions.

In his expose during the House committee hearing on Wednesday (September 2), Ken Sarmiento said he discovered the modus operandi of this alleged syndicate when he was assigned in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

He said this alleged syndicate issues fake receipts to OFWs. Based on information gathered by the Committee, there is an estimated P1.2 billion worth of unremitted OFW premiums.

“Napansin namin dalawa ang modus na nangyayari – isang retail fraud. Retail meaning isa-isang binibigyan ng fake receipt ang OFW (We noticed that there were two schemes happening, one of which was retail fraud. Retail meaning, each OFW was given a fake receipt),” he said.

May napansin din kami isang level na wholesale na dito may involvement na ang hiring agency na ini-instruct nila ang local officer nila na huwag nang magbayad o mag-remit ng premiums sa PhilHealth (We also noticed another wholesale level wherein the hiring agency instructs its local officer no to remit to PhilHealth, ” he added.

With new irregularities surfacing during the hearings, the Committee plans to amend the law on PhilHealth’s OFW premiums.

PhilHealth membership was optional for OFWs until the enactment of the Universal Health Care law in 2019 which classified overseas Filipinos as “direct contributors” thereby requiring them to make premium contributions to PhilHealth. 

READ: PhilHealth’s 3% mandatory pay hike amid global pandemic draws public ire

In May, PhilHealth’s announcement of premium rate hike for OFWs drew public ire among Filipinos here and abroad saying such a rate adjustment is a clear form of injustice especially during a pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PhilHealth assures all COVID-19 tests formerly handled by PRC will be processed

Marje Pelayo   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) said its agreement with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) concerning provisions on the conduct of COVID-19 testing is currently under review.

This is the reason why the state insurer was not able to immediately settle its arrears with PRC which ballooned to P930-million, PhilHealth Spokesperson Rey Beleña said.

Beleña added that they are now coordinating with various government agencies to help pay PhilHealth’s obligations.

“Patuloy ang aming coordination hindi lang sa Philippine Red Cross kundi siyempre sa mga relevant authorities in government agencies, [We are continously coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross and relevant government agencies],” Beleña said.

“Naghihintay na lamang kami ng kanilang magiging komento para makapag proceed tayo, mabayaran natin yung ating balanse sa Red Cross, [We are just waiting for their comments so we could proceed to paying our balances with Red Cross],” he added.

PhilHealth assured that all COVID-19 tests for returning overseas Filipino workers and frontliners will continue despite PRC’s suspension of its service to them.

All pending specimens formerly handled by PRC will be transferred and distributed to 105 PhilHealth-accredited laboratories for testing, Beleña assured.

“Nakahanda itong mga partners natin na ito na tumanggap ng mga specimen, [Our partners are ready to accept more specimens],” the official said.

“Iyong kanilang gagawing testing, covered iyan ng Philhealth. So wala ring babayaran yung mga kabababayan natin, [The testing that they will administer is also covered by PhilHealth, no fee is needed],” he added.

For its part, the PRC said it will continue to conduct COVID-19 tests of specimens coming from the private sector and local government units (LGUs) provided that the payments are up to date.

PRC has conducted over one million COVID-19 tests, representing 26% of the national test output.

On the other hand, PhilHealth said they have already shelled out a total of P1.6 billion for the more than 433,000 tests conducted by PRC. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Muling ipinapaala ng Philippine Red Cross na bukas pa rin ang mga PRC molecular laboratories upang magtest ng mga…

Posted by Philippine Red Cross on Thursday, 15 October 2020

Palace welcomes Gierran move for courtesy resignation of PhilHealth senior execs

Robie de Guzman   •   October 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Friday lauded Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and CEO Dante Gierran for his “decisiveness” in ordering the agency’s senior officials to tender their courtesy resignation, as part of his efforts to rid the state insurer of corruption.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Gierran’s move was “a step in the right direction.”

Roque issued the statement after the newly-installed PhilHealth chief implemented a Board resolution directing all senior officers with Salary Grade 26 and above to tender their courtesy resignation.

The Palace official said Gierran’s predecessor, Ricardo Morales, “blatantly failed to carry out” this resolution.

“We commend PhilHealth PCEO Gierran for his display of decisiveness,” Roque said.

“We consider this latest development in PhilHealth a step in the right direction as this is in line with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive to reorganize the state health insurer, make erring officials accountable and give the agency a fresh start,” he added.

Morales and other PhilHealth officials are facing charges filed by the Task Force PhilHealth led by the Department of Justice  over the alleged corruption in the agency.

The task force was created by President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate corruption claims that surfaced during congressional inquiries.

These issues include the procurement of alleged overpriced IT equipment and the questionable release of funds under the agency’s interim reimbursement mechanism.

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