"PhilHealth must first show that it has mended its ways."
After the public outrage over the revelation last year of big-time corruption in the management of its finances, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) cannot have been unprepared for the widespread opposition to the implementation of the member-contribution increases authorized by the Universal Health Care Act, which established the national health care insurance institution.
Whether its management was surprised or not, the timing of the increases could not have been worse for PhilHealth. The announcement of the increases has come at a time of great public indignation and disgust over the national health care insurance corporation has been – and, despite the appointment of a new president, probably is still being—run. Alternatively, the timing of the public disclosure of the corrupt practice at PhilHealth was so bad, considering that a statutory increase in member contributions lay just ahead.
In appointing as the new PhilHealth president a man with a background in investigative work—NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) deputy director Dante Gierran, a lawyer-accountant – President Duterte obviously was sending to the Filipino people that the PhilHealth mess will be thoroughly investigated and that the corrupt officials will be held to account. Mr. Gierran lost no time giving the nation the assurance that thoroughly cleaning up PhilHealth was what he intended to do, bringing to bear all his experience in investigative work.
The new president announced recently that all the funds that COA (Commision on Audit) flagged as “unaccounted for” have been restored. But did Mr. Gierran say that the same thing would not happen again during his watch? No one can say because he has not told the Filipino people what new, corruption-proof procurement, fund allocation and internal audit systems he has installed. Let us not forget that President Duterte assured us that Mr. Gierran’s immediate predecessor, retired Gen. Ricardo Morales, was going to straighten out PhilHealth.
The Duterte administration—especially the Secretary of Health —and the PhilHealth community may not realize it, but as of today PhilHealth continues to be regarded as damaged goods by the Filipino people. Mr Gierran may really be able to turn things around at PhilHealth and reverse the Filipino people’s impression of this very important institution. Mr. Gierran has everyone’s best wishes and prayers.
Until the new president has demonstrated that he has put an end to the culture of corruption at PhilHealth and that PhilHealth can once again be trusted with the funds at its disposal, the scheduled increase in member contributions should be deferred. Many Filipinos have voiced this sentiment.
A government institution that has been shown to have misused taxpayers’ money and abused the public trust should not be given more funds until it has shown that it has mended its ways. Doing otherwise would be rewarding wrongdoing.