Philhealth cleansing before bailout urged

A HOUSE leader on Sunday said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) must undergo “thorough financial checkup” and “cleansing” before the government considers any sort of bailout for the troubled state insurer.

“PhilHealth should come clean about its current financial standing and must be willing to go through a cleansing process to rid the agency of corrupt officials and employees prior to any government bailout,” said House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera.

Herrera made the statement after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the government was ready to provide funding to ensure the survival of PhilHealth, which is tasked with implementing the landmark Universal Health Care (UHC) Act of 2019.

As one of the authors of the UHC law in Congress, Herrera welcomed the government’s assurance, saying it “helps to allay concerns that the corruption scandal and funding problems hounding PhilHealth would delay the law’s implementation.”

“We cannot afford any delay in the implementation of the law, which guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable health care services for all Filipinos,” Herrera said.

PhilHealth acting senior vice president for actuarial services Nerissa Santiago recently told a Senate hearing that the state-run insurance firm may cease to exist by 2022 due to the "double impact” of decreasing collections and increasing payouts for the hospitalization of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) patients.

Earlier, the agency’s president and CEO, Ricardo Morales, said the implementation of UHC and expansion of primary health benefits may have to be delayed as the pandemic dealt a big blow to PhilHealth’s finances and capacity to pay for the healthcare services of its members.

Amid its financial troubles, PhilHealth was rocked with corruption scandals involving P15 billion supposedly pocketed by a “mafia” operating within the corporation and the alleged overpriced purchase of an IT system worth over P2 billion.

Given the circumstances, Herrera said the government must condition any emergency funding on “greater transparency, accountability and
efficiency” to ensure that PhilHealth does not find itself in a similar situation in the future.

“PhilHealth should not be provided additional funding unless meaningful changes are implemented to ensure it can effectively fulfill its mandate and tasks under the UHC law,” the party-list lawmaker said.