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

Marje Pelayo   •   September 3, 2020   •   678

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)

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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