“It is [PhilHealth’s] non-payment of bills on time that is killing us.”
Senator Richard Gordon had this to say on Wednesday as the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) outstanding unpaid balance to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has reached P623 million as of 1 December.
PhilHealth is obliged to pay testing centers like PRC the costs of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests of individuals covered by the expanded targeted testing program of the Department of Health under the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act.
Before PRC charges PhilHealth P3,500 per test and it has been reduced to P3,409 starting last Tuesday.
Gordon explained why PhilHealth seems to be incapable of settling its debt to PRC since last month, saying: “It’s a moving target. If you pay us P500 million now and you still owe us P100 million a month ago, it keeps moving.”
PRC, a private humanitarian group, utilizes about P25 million worth of COVID-19 test kits each day, Gordon said, contributing 37 percent of the total number of tests being done in the National Capital Region.
“Our [memorandum of] agreement [states] that PhilHealth pays three days after we send them the bill but they are now taking up to nine and even up to 12 days,” he said.
Although the PRC is a non-government organization, the senator noted how PRC is doing the government’s job, which is to test for COVID-19, and still being “insulted.”
“The Red Cross was forced to test because the government was not ready to test,” he recalled when the Philippines only had one COVID-19 testing center, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, back in March.
The Bayanihan Law identified PRC to primarily serve as an axillary to the government in giving aid to the people.
“We are not a bottomless pit. We have our responsibilities. We are building homes, providing shelters as quickly as we can in typhoon-hit areas and that costs us money,” he stressed.
PhilHealth’s unpaid claims affect PRC’s humanitarian aid to the disaster survivors in the country. It is one of the groups leading the relief operations in provinces Cagayan, Isabela and Bicol after they were battered by several strong typhoons.
“Nasa konsensya na lang nila yan na nahirapan na mga tao [It’s just in their conscience to live through while people are struggling,” he said.