Hontiveros eyes bill protecting Philhealth from false claims

Robie de Guzman   •   August 1, 2019   •   1134

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she is planning to file a bill seeking to protect the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) from fraudulent activities such as overpayments and false claims.

Hontiveros said the bill, which will be called the PhilHealth Insurance False Claims Act, is seen to deter and minimize fraud notwithstanding the penalties provided for under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

The senator said she will file the bill after Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that the Philhealth incurred billions of losses due to alleged fraudulent benefit claims involving corrupt health officials.

“The seriousness and disturbing nature of these allegations should prompt a review of PhilHealth’s anti-fraud mechanisms,” she said in a statement.

“Every peso lost to corruption in our health programs would mean that a citizen is deprived of potentially life-saving medication or treatment. Corruption makes our people unhealthy and even threatens their lives,” she added.

Under the bill, Hontiveros proposes to improve PhilHealth’s fraud detection mechanisms, including a shift from the current case rate payment to a diagnosis-related grouping provider payment mechanism, and providing support to PhilHealth staff who flag anomalies.

She also wants to revisit the penalty of suspending hospital operations and seriously consider imposing monetary penalties that are at least three times the amount of detected fraud.

Hontiveros said she was particularly alarmed over the report that PhilHealth continues to overpay fraudulent hospitals and clinics via “overstaying” or “ghost” patients.

“Mukhang tuloy-tuloy ang mga anomalya mula sa hakot operation ng mga eye clinics, ghost dialysis patients hanggang sa mga kontrobersyal na repayments. Hindi maaari ito,” she said.

“Defrauding the government and depriving countless Filipinos of access to health services is an unacceptable and criminal misuse of public money. Every single peso under our health programs could potentially spell the difference between life and death for our constituents. Let us make sure that it is well spent and will not end up in the pockets of the corrupt,” she added.

Pacquiao seeks 1-year freeze on Philhealth premium rate hike for health workers

Robie de Guzman   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Manny Pacquiao on Friday said he has filed a resolution calling for a one-year suspension of the increase in Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) premium contributions for healthcare workers amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In Senate Resolution 429, Pacquiao urged the Senate to call for the suspension of the increase in Philhealth premium rate for healthcare professionals for the year 2020 “as a token of gratitude” to their sacrifices amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The senator filed the resolution as Philhealth is poised to implement an increase in premium payments from 2.75% to 3% of its members’ monthly salary.

The increase is provided in the Universal Health Care Act, which provides for the automatic enrolment of all Filipino citizens in the government’s National Health Insurance Program. The law also mandates an annual increase in premium rate until it reaches 5% by 2024.

“The first year of the implementation of the increased rate of premium contributions, coincided with the advent and continuation of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines,” the resolution read.

“This has constrained most, if not all, health care professionals and other health care workers in the country sacrificing and risking their well-being and even their lives, to help cure the afflicted and stem the surge of transmission of the disease caused by the Covid-19 virus,” it added.

Pacquiao also pointed out that the pandemic has resulted in the “disruption of the professional practice of the health care professionals concomitantly leading to the marked decrease in the income of health care professionals and related health care workers, and to some, even to the closure of their clinics.”

“Such a suspension may help these frontliners in a small way, but the recognition and expression of gratitude will go a little farther to support them moving forward,” he said.

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) earlier called on the government to suspend the premium payment increase for medical workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

NBI urged to take down online pages promoting sexual exploitation of children

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to put a stop to social media pages that sexually exploit children following reports of continuing exploitation of children even amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an open letter addressed to the NBI, Hontiveros said her office received reports that there are still pages on Facebook and other online sites that are actively posting indecent photos of female children.

“Nakarating sa opisina ko na mayroong mga Facebook pages kung saan naka-post ang napakaraming mahahalay na larawan ng mga babaeng bata. Matagal na ang mga Facebook page na ito ngunit active pa rin daw ang mga posts at groups,” she said.

“Ngayong COVID-19 pandemic, may mga reports na nagsasabing pwedeng mas dadami ang kaso ng online sexual exploitation of children. We need to be more vigilant and make sure that our children are safe and secure, online and offline,” she stressed.

Hontiveros appealed to the bureau to probe and takedown these pages, as well as find and prosecute the people behind these social media accounts.

“Nananawagan ako sa Bureau na imbestigahan at agarang i-take down ang mga Facebook pages na ito. Kailangan malaman din ng NBI kung sino-sino ang mga taong nagpapatakbo nito. Kailangang panagutin at ipakulong ang mga kriminal na nasa likod ng mga Facebook pages at online content na ito,” she stressed.

According to the senator, Facebook also needs to be made accountable for allowing these pages.

“The tech giant, with all its resources, should have technologies and mechanisms in place that prevent these kinds of pages from existing. Sobrang nakakabahala na hanggang ngayon, may mga ganito paring nangyayari sa platform na ito,” she said.

She also called on the public to remain vigilant in ending online sexual exploitation of children by reporting these pages to authorities.

“Kailangan nating protektahan ang online space bilang mga safe spaces. We need to make sure that our children are safe online, lalo na ngayong mas marami ang oras na ginugugol nila sa social media,” she said.

Duterte orders PhilHealth to make premium payment for OFWs voluntary

Marje Pelayo   •   May 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has directed state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to make premium contributions voluntary for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) due to mounting complaints from Filipinos here and abroad.

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

The President wants to ensure that no further load will be added to OFWs at this time of health and financial crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Nag-issue po ng direktiba ang ating Presidente sa Philhealth para gawing boluntaryo ang pagbabayad ng OFWs ng Philhealth premiums, [The President has already directed PhilHealth to make payment for PhilHealth contributionrs for OFWs voluntary,]” Roque confirmed. 

Roque, being one of the principal authors of the Universal Health Care Act during his time as Representative of Kabayan Partylist in the 17th Congress, stressed that there was no provision on his version of the law that orders mandatory additional premium contribution among OFWs.

He added that it was PhilHealth that included such provision as it is the one that crafted the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the said law.

Roque also clarified that PhilHealth premiums will only increase by 0.5%, and not 3%.

“Wala po sa batas na nagsasabi na dapat patawan ang mga OFWs ng karagdagang premiums sa pamamaraan na nais ipatupad ng Philhealth, [Mandatory payment of premium contributions for OFWs was not included in the original version the way PhilHealth wants it to happen,]” Roque.

“Iyan po ay nasa implementing rules and regulations, [They included it in the implementing rules and regulations,]” he added.

Roque also clarified that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) do not require payments of PhilHealth premiums prior to processing of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

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