Morales,13 others sign bank secrecy waivers

PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) President Ricardo  Morales on Monday led his 13 officials in signing bank waivers for the  Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to scrutinize their bank accounts  amid multibillion-peso corruption allegations that rocked the state  agency.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House  committee on public accounts, bared this during the panel joint hybrid  hearing Monday at plenary hall of the House of Representatives with  the House committee on good government chaired by Bulacan Rep.  Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.

“These are the PhilHealth officials who have already signed a waiver  with regard to the Bank Secrecy Law. They are giving the investigators  the authority to look into their bank accounts,” Defensor, who  presided the hearing, said.

At the same time, Defensor said Philhealth extended P1.49-billion to  51 hospitals under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) despite  pending cases.

Defensor said a total of 4,664 cases were filed against various  hospitals in the country, 3,806 of which were lodged by Philhealth  itself from 2019 to 2020.

Some the cases filed include padding of claims, claims for  non-admitted or non-treated patients, extending period of confinement,  post-dating of claims, misrepresentation by furnishing false of  incorrect information, unjustified admission beyond accredited bed  capacity, unauthorized operations beyond service capability,  fabrication or possession of fabricated forms and supporting  documents, other fraudulent acts at criminal liability.

“Itong 51 hospital na ito ay may fraud cases na binigyan ng IRM. Ang total po nito ay P1.49-billion. Ang pinagtataka ko, bakit hindi  ni-resolved ang fraud cases bago nagrelease ng IRM?” said Defensor.

Aside from Morales, the 13 others PhilHealth officials who signed bank  secrecy waivers are executive vice president and chief operating  officer Arnel de Jesus, senior vice presidents Dennis Mas, Rodolfo del  Rosario Jr., Jovita Argona, Renato Limsiaco Jr., Israel Francis Pargas  (MD), acting SVP Nerissa Santiago.

Vice presidents Oscar Abadu, Shirley Domingo (MD), corporate  secretary Jonathan Mangaoang, senior manager Bernadette Lico and Area  VPs Franciso Soria (MD) and Walter Bacareza.

For his failure to accede to the challenge Deputy Speaker and  Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte to sign bank secrecy waiver last  hearing, Morales apologized based on a latter presented by Defensor.

Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr. questioned during the  hearing who conceptualized PhilHealth’s policy that included dialysis  procedures in the P27 billion that the agency allocated for the  coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) positive patients.

Barzaga, President of the National Unity Party (NUP) and chairman of  the House committee on natural resources, also cited the several  turnover of PhilHealth presidents and chief executive officers, where  Morales turned out to be the fourth, since President Duterte assumed  office in July 2016. Morales took over PhilHealth in Aug. 2019.  Earlier, PhilHealth paid ‘private hospitals’ millions but owed gov’t  specialty hospitals

It was learned during the previous hearing that hundreds of millions  of pesos have been paid by state insurer PhilHealth in reimbursements  to “private hospitals,” but owed millions to government specialty  hospitals, senior administration lawmakers have observed.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list  Rep. Bernadette Herrera has called on the Philippine Health Insurance  Corp. (PhilHealth) to immediately settle its obligations to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

Herrera said PhilHealth was “jeopardizing not only the PRC’s entire  COVID-19 testing operations, but also public access to affordable swab  tests” with its failure to pay its liabilities to the country’s  premier humanitarian organization.

PRC offers the cheapest COVID-19 swab test at P4,000 and results are  available after 24 to 48 hours. A similar COVID-19 screening could  cost up to P10,000 in private hospitals.

“We cannot afford to lose the  COVID-19 testing service of the PRC,  which carries out around 10,000 tests a day,” Herrera pointed out.

“PRC has been a dependable partner in detecting COVID-19 cases through  testing, which is the cornerstone of the government’s coronavirus  response,” she added.

Herrera expressed deep concern over the statement of Senator Richard  Gordon that PRC was likely to suspend its COVID-19 testing program  should PhilHealth fail to settle its unpaid balance amounting to P700  million.

The party-list lawmaker warned of “serious repercussions” if PRC  discontinues its coronavirus testing operations.

“If PRC stops testing, many people will be left out untested, undiagnosed and sick. And that will further spread the virus,” Herrera  cautioned.

Gordon, president and CEO of PRC, had warned that PhilHealth’s non-payment will prevent Red Cross from being able to order the needed test kits to replenish its dwindling supply.

If the situation continues, Gordon said the organization will be  forced to stop its operations in its testing center in Manila and will  not be able to open its newly built laboratories in the cities of Bacolod, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.