"Do we say PhilHealth or PhilWealth?"
I have long suspected there must be something wrong with our slow recovery rate of COVID-19 patients. While the Department of Health insists that more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines are mild and that mild cases only take between 14 and 21 days to recover, judging by the way the DOH is presenting the number of recoveries, it seems these patients are taking almost two months to recover.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who had contracted COVID-19, along with his wife and children. While theirs were only mild cases, they were placed in a quarantine facility, and were subjected to six swab tests each, which I find somewhat irregular. Why subject them to multiple swab testing when from what I’ve heard, once a person test positive using the RT-PCR test, he or she is immediately placed in quarantine and is allowed to leave once he or she tests negative using the swab testing method, twice.
According to my friend, he only learned that their RT-PCR tests were charged to Philippine Health Insurance Corporation only after they were discharged from the quarantine facility. However, about two or three weeks ago, he was surprised when someone called him up asking if they had fully recovered, adding if they could be available for another round of swab testing.
Clearly it appears that they have not yet been included in the DOH’s figure of recovered COVID-19 patients. It was then that I deduced someone could be making money for the slow recovery reporting of COVID-19 patients. For the longer one takes to recover, the higher hospital bill could be charged to him or her. And out of this bill, a portion is charged to PhilHealth.
And how is this monetized? Apparently, someone or maybe a group have been using P30-billion Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, a special fund intended for hospitals treating COVID-19 patients as milking cow.
In fact, it was learned at the Senate hearing this week that even dialysis centers, which are barred from receiving COVID-19 cases as their main patients are immuno-compromised, are collecting from the IRM fund.
At the same hearing, Senator Francis Tolentino also bared some hospitals had been defrauding PhilHealth by collecting benefit claims for COVID-19 cases even if the patients were admitted for other ailments, citing the case of a hospital in Carmen town, Cebu province, which treated a stabbing victim but reportedly declared that patient as a COVID-19 case.
Another case, Tolentino said, involved an individual injured in a motorcycle accident but was also listed as a COVID-19 case.
When my mother passed away last week of June, the owner of the funeral parlor which rendered services to her, disclosed to me one of their clients almost sued them when they brought their dead relative straight to the crematorium after being instructed by the hospital which had declared the cause of death as due to COVID-19, but which turned out to be false as the test conducted on the cadaver turned out to be negative.
This was the same case that befell my aunt who passed away barely a week after mother died. She was also immediately cremated even though it was later revealed that she had tested negative for COVID-19.
In both instances, the bereaved families were deprived of the opportunity to pay them their last respects.
Now, if there are indeed cases of fake COVID-19 infection, the biggest money-making scheme within the state insurer was when PhilHealth, through its president and CEO, declared they would cover expenses of patients with coronavirus disease from march up to April 14 of this year.
With hospital bills of COVID-19 patients running from hundreds of thousands to a few million pesos, imagine how much the mafia within PhilHealth could have pocketed during that period.
According to lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith, the former anti-fraud officer of the state insurer, no less than P15 billion of PhilHealth funds have fattened the wallets of the syndicate within the corporation.
From PhilHealth, they have successfully renamed the state corporation to PhilWealth, their own Kumikitang Pangkabuhayan Program.
But as Senator Migz Zubiri had said, there is a special place in hell for those who take advantage of people’s misery.