The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Saturday stated that it still has available reserve funds worth around P115 billion despite earlier claims that the agency may lose the totality by 2022.
In an interview, PhilHealth spokesman Dr. Shirley Domingo said that the statement claimed at the Senate hearing was only a projection that could still change.
Domingo said in total the agency has around P130 billion worth of reserve funds which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected as they deducted the allegedly stolen P15 billion to be distributed among hospitals.
“The cost of responding to this pandemic is eating part of our reserve funds. The reserves were used in projecting how much more will still be left,” she said.
She also denied that the P15 billion was allegedly pocketed by members of the executive committee.
Domingo claimed it was already disbursed to various hospitals in the form of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) since the start of the pandemic in March.
“We started giving around March until now so we can say it’s around 711 facilities. It was assistance given to hospitals for them to better respond to the pandemic,” she said.
To provide proof against the allegations, Domingo said that they are willing to release the list of hospitals who were given the assistance and how much each received.
Members of the executive committee have likewise agreed on the lifestyle check among employees as they welcome the ordered investigation from government agencies.
She explained that the fund of PhilHealth comes from both of its members and from the national government who pays for the premium of certain sectors such as senior citizens.
Initially this year, the state health insurer billed the government to pay P 136 billion as the cost of premium among those they are paying for but at present only P26 billion was provided.
“We are currently asking the government for P136 billion because that is equivalent to some of its indirect contributors but they were only able to provide P71 billion and in general not all have been paid yet. We have only received around P26 billion,” she said.
In a related development, at least two of the agency’s executive committee staff have filed their medical certificates excusing them from the upcoming Senate hearing.
In a letter addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Arnel de Jesus was the first to submit his statement revoking his attendance to the hearing, on Tuesday.
De Jesus said the reason was due to an ‘unforeseen medical emergency’ upon attaching a copy of his medical certificate issued by the Asian Hospital and Medical Center.
A few moments later, the doctor of PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales also sent a copy of his condition and has advised him to take a leave.
In the letter, it was stated that Morales has been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma and is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said members of Task Force PhilHealth which was formed in response to the memorandum of President Duterte who wanted to know the extent of the mess in the said agency will have separate functionalities.
This was clarified by the justice chief as he was asked if its alright for a constitutional body like to ombudsman to join the task force.
For Guevarra, these independent constitutional bodies will perform their core functions as part of the task force.
He said the Commission on Audit will audit, the Civil Service Commission will provide guidance on personnel actions, and the Office of the Ombudsman will investigate and prosecute anti-graft complaints that the task force may file.
“Nothing ultra vires. They will just perform these core functions in concert and in collaboration with the executive department, and with a particular target agency in sight,” Guevarra said.
The justice chief also revealed that when he asked the head of the said government agencies to be part task force they readily accepted.
“I personally talked to their respective heads, respectfully sought their assistance, and graciously invited them to join us in the task force. All of them accepted our invitation without any reservation or condition and promised their full support,” Guevarra said.
The President in issuing the memorandum apparently was so exasperated over allegations of corruption in PhilHealth thus he ordered an investigation to be led by the Department of Justice (DoJ), to wit headed by Guevarra.
According to presidential spokesman Harry Roque the move of the President proved his “zero-tolerance policy” on corruption and Duterte’s concern to “find out the truth” about the allegations of irregularities in PhilHealth.
Guevarra in the said Presidential memorandum was directed to organize a task force to probe the corruption allegations, including an audit of PhilHealth’s finances and lifestyle checks on its officials and employees.
The Senate has conducted an investigation triggered by the resignation of Thorrsson Montes Keith, an antifraud legal officer of the government corporation two weeks ago.
He cited “widespread corruption at PhilHealth as one of his reasons for quitting and later said up to P15 billion of its funds had been pocketed by corrupt officials.
Within 30 days, the task force should submit its findings and recommendations, including proposed legal actions against officials and employees found to be responsible for acts of corruption or anomalies in PhilHealth.
with Alvin Murcia