New PhilHealth top exec eyed

June 11, 2019
Salvador Panelo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing a physician Dr. Jaime Cruz, as the next president of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go said yesterday.

Cruz has yet to accept the President’s offer.

Created in 1995 as a tax-exempt state corporation attached to the Department of Health, PhilHealth was mandated to implement affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all Filipinos.

Duterte asked for the courtesy resignations of top PhilHealth officials, including acting president Dr. Roy Ferrer, due to the ghost dialysis scandal.

Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo also said Cruz, a private practitioner, has been asked by the President to join the PhilHealth management.

Secondary officials will run PhilHealth while its top executives are placed under investigation in connection with allegations of misuse of health insurance funds.

“They know the operations. There is an investigation, puwede naman pagsabayin,” Panelo said at a news conference.

The board members of PhilHealth expressed their gratitude towards the President, during their meeting in Malacañang, for giving them the opportunity to serve the public, the Palace official said.

“In fact, they thanked the President for giving them the opportunity to serve. And they also appreciate the fact that the resignation is based not on the fact that the President mistrusts them but because he wants a clean slate, he wants a full investigation,” he added.

The President raised the possibility of reappointing any of the PhilHealth board members or giving them other positions in government, Panelo noted.

“The President, siyempre, is tentative kasi wala pa ‘yung report ng NBI,” the Palace spokesman said.

Duterte ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a full-scale investigation into alleged irregularities in PhilHealth.

Punish guilty

Senator Sonny Angara urged the government to make sure that all those involved in the “ghost” dialysis scandal hounding PhilHealth will not go unpunished.

“We need some punitive measures—we need to punish those who are guilty—as well as preventive measures para hindi na maulit,” Angara said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Angara, one of the authors of the newly enacted Universal Health Care (UHC) Act that strengthens PhilHealth’s capacity to provide quality and affordable health care to all Filipinos, described the latest controversy surrounding the state-run health insurance firm as both “highly illegal and immoral.”

As chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means in the outgoing 17th Congress, Angara also sponsored the bill increasing the excise tax on tobacco products from P35 to P60 over the next four years, in a bid to raise crucial funding for the UHC program.

“Kaya natin ipinasa ‘yun (tobacco excise tax bill) para sa universal health care, so bibigyan natin ng mas maraming pera and yet merong mga anomaly,” Angara lamented.

Aside from the usual corruption that happens in government, Angara said the issue of ghost dialysis treatments was particularly “condemnable” because it took away funds meant for sick and poor people.

“It’s a bit disturbing. Aside from being a bit political issue, it’s also a moral issue because this money is meant for very poor and sick people,” Angara said.

Angara noted that this was not the first time PhilHealth was rocked by a scandal involving fraudulent claims.

“Every now and then, there’s a scam that pops up,” Angara said, as he recalled that PhilHealth also encountered fraudulent claims for cataract surgeries and pneumonia in the past.

House probe

Incoming Cibac party-list Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva is urging Congress to look into the PhilHealth issue in aid of legislation.

He wanted both officials and personnel of Philhealth and WellMed to be investigated.

“We strongly condemn the outright misuse of public health insurance funds happening between involved PhilHealth and WellMed officials. With respect to the rule of law, we call for an investigation to take place regarding this scam so that those responsible are rightfully put behind bars,” Villanueva said.

“We will not allow real and needy patients be robbed of the benefits and medical treatments while those who are liable for such corrupt practices remain at large.” Villanue added.

With Marlon Purificacion, Jester P. Manalastas