PhilHealth mess

"In this agency, the biggest waste is its top management."

Incredible incompetence and large-scale corruption. This is the situation at the country’s leading health insurance agency, the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth. The top management of PhilHealth appears to me like a big-time criminal syndicate systematically pillaging and plundering, ala Genghis Khan, an agency that has an annual money of P150 billion. Reports say, as much as P15 billion has been plundered at PhilHealth under present management, by the so-called Mindanao Mafia. That may be small change.

Add the budget of the Department of Health of P175 billion, and government’s outlay for Health is actually P325.8 billion – the third largest after the P692.6 billion of Education, and P581.7 billion of Public Works.

Yet, that budget is nowhere to be felt. The Philippines is the hottest spot for COVID-19 in the 11-nation ASEAN, with 136,638 cases, 9,555 more cases than No. 2, Indonesia which has 127,083.

Globally, the Philippines is No. 22 in number of COVID cases. Excluding India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Philippines is the worst performer in Asia. Based on its Health budget of P325.8 billion, the government should be spending P3,000 of taxpayers’ money for every Filipino. Yet, when they get sick, as millions do now, they don’t get a single peso to buy aspirin.

Yet again, some claimants, per the Senate hearings, are encouraged to seek refund of P32,000, the budget for pneumonia, for sickness that could only be simple cold or something less benign than pneumonia.

Small, unheard of rural hospitals, with beds of as small as ten, get millions from PhilHealth, while bigger hospitals are made to wait for eternity for refunds amounting to billions. In the bailiwick of opposition leader Senator Frank Drilon, Iloilo hospitals have difficulty securing refunds from PhilHealth. “The criteria is vindictiveness,” snapped Drilon.

The guy in charge of PhilHealth as president and CEO, is a general, Ricardo Morales. His biggest management experience is as camp commander of Fort Bonifacio, the Army headquarters. If you believe my friend Ramon Tulfo, the general’s main job was to take care of waste disposal at the sprawling camp.

At PhilHealth, the biggest waste is its top management. Having the experience with waste, Morales should have revamped his top management which has become a criminal syndicate. Asked yesterday by Senator Grace Poe what his qualification or contribution to the Health sector is, Morales dead-panned: “I am a senior citizen, ma’am. That’s the only contribution I can show.”

Annually, for the last three years, PhilHealth’s financial statements could not pass muster the approval of auditors. Even Morales himself has no record of having passed a performance audit. In measures of performance, such as satisfying its stakeholders (the insured) and delivering services on time and adequately, Morales was found below average, the Senate hearing discovered.

Listening to the Senate hearings into anomalies and shenanigans at PhilHealth, one cannot but feel a sense of outrage and anger at how things have deteriorated at the state health insurance agency. That is tragic, given the worst global health crisis to overwhelm us in the last 100 years.

At the hearings, it was revealed that PhilHealth has in its roster more than 20,000 who are centenarians – 100 years or older. Scientists should look into Philippine anthropology—we have the longest living mammals on earth. As if that were not enough, PhilHealth also has in its records thousands of very young senior citizens, very young, below 60 and as young as 18. They draw senior citizens’ benefits, because by law, senior citizens are automatically enrolled as insured. There are about 8 million senior Filipinos, per PhilHealth records.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) should review this system of declaring centenarians who do not exist and senior citizens who are not senior citizens. We might be able to maximize our so-called “demographic dividend.” We seem to be the youngest country on earth and at the same time, we are also the oldest country on earth.

PhilHealth is also capable of comedy. It created an Integrity Committee ostensibly to promote the culture of integrity in the system. But the guy, a lawyer-SVP, appointed as head of the Integrity Committee, was himself found guilty of corruption, in 2005, for overpricing the building of PhilHealth on East Avenue in suburban Quezon City. This same guy beats Superman and can be in two places at the same time. He heads PhilHealth legal in Region I (Ilocos Region) and Davao, a distance of 2,000 kms.

Speaking of Region I, did you know that the PhilHealth Building in the region is rented from the family of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who is chairman of PhilHealth? Duque used to be PhilHealth president too. That gives new meaning to social distancing, which is may explain why the pandemic of corruption at PhilHealth continues to ravage the agency.

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Philippine Health Insurance Corp. , PhilHealth , corruption
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