The implementation of the Universal Health Care law will still push through regardless of the fate of the state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday.
“Whether or not PhilHealth will be privatized, the implementation of UHC cannot be stopped,” Vergeire said in an online forum.
During the Senate hearing Friday on the Department of Health’s proposed P203.74-billion budget for 2021, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he was amenable to the proposal to privatize PhilHealth to stem corruption.
“Yes, there are many components of the health insurance system that can be outsourced. An example would be claims processing, the counter fraud, risk management…” Duque said.
The privatization, if not abolition of PhilHealth, was raised by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte after officials of the state insurer were accused of anomalous disbursements of P15 billion worth of Internal Revenue Mechanism funds to hospitals.
However, Vergeire said the controversy would not get in the way of UHC.
“Nobody said this will not be implemented just because a government agency has restructured,” she added.
The Department of Health also backed the inclusion of mental health expenses under the UHC law coverage.
“We only have one health care worker for 100,000 individuals. We want to change this, and we want to make quality mental health care services accessible,” Vergeire stressed.
“We are one with WHO (ther World Health Organization) in pushing for highest standards of mental health care and well-being and for mental health to be included in the UHC coverage,” she added.
The proposed P4.5 trillion budget for 2021 has earmarked P71 billion for PhilHealth, largely for the implementation of UHC law.
Meanwhile, Malacanang hailed PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran for his determination to convince senior officials of PhilHealth to tender their courtesy resignations as part of the reorganization of the state insurer, describing the move as a “step in the right direction.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement after more than 40 senior officers of the PhilHealth heeded the call of its new chief to step down as part of a reorganization initiative amid allegations of corruption hounding the agency.
A total of 43 senior officers have responded to Gierran’s September 30 memo implementing a 2019 Board Resolution directing all senior officers from Salary Grade 26 and above to tender their courtesy resignation.
“The Palace welcomes the move of (PhilHealth) President and Chief Executive Officer Dante Gierran to implement an old PhilHealth Board Resolution– which his predecessor, Mr. Ricardo Morales, blatantly failed to carry out – directing all senior officers with Salary Grade 26 and above to tender their courtesy resignation,” Roque said in a statement.
“We commend PhilHealth PCEO Gierran for his display of decisiveness,” the Palace spokesman said.
“It is a step in the right direction as this is in line with President Duterte’s directive to reorganize the state health insurer and to make erring officials accountable to give the agency a fresh start,” he added.
President Duterte earlier ordered the filing of charges against former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales and other officials linked by an inter-agency task force to irregularities in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM), procurement of ICT equipment, and policy for accountability.
Duterte even proposed to abolish PhilHealth. However, Gierran is against privatizing PhilHealth, arguing that it will send a “wrong signal” that government officials and employees cannot be trusted.
Task Force PhilHealth, which was led by the Department of Justice (DOJ), has recommended graft charges against Morales and several other PhilHealth officials.