Six regional vice presidents of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) have voluntarily gone on leave amid ongoing investigations into alleged anomalies hounding the state health insurer.
In their letter dated Aug. 15, the six regional vice presidents informed PhilHealth executive vice president Arnel De Jesus of their decision to file official leaves effective Aug. 17, except for the
two of them who have been on floating status since September last year.
The six are vice presidents Paolo Johann Perez (Region IV-B), Datu Masiding Alonto Jr. (Region X), Atty. Valerie Anne Hollero (Region VI), Khaliquzzman Macabato (BARMM), Dennis Adre, and William Chavez.
The PhilHealth officials said they decided to take a leave following the call of the Department of Justice and in support of the ongoing congressional inquiries.
"The ongoing Senate and House of Representatives investigations into graft and corruption at PhilHealth demands full cooperation from all its officers and staff. This is necessary to help determine and assign culpability in the most expeditious manner," they said.
"This (leave) will give investigators a free hand in finding out those responsible and finally bring them to account," they added.
The regional vice presidents said they have assigned an officer in charge in their respective areas so that their daily operations will not be disrupted and their delivery of service remains timely.
The six regional vice presidents were earlier named by former PhilHealth chief Roy Ferrer as being part of the so-called "mafia" in the state health insurer.
Former anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, however, said the six persons mentioned "have no capacity to steal" because they don't stay in the head office.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos recommended withholding some P10 billion in PhilHealth funds not directed at the testing and treatment of COVID-19, until the agency submits a detailed accounting of its fund releases.
Marcos said PhilHealth may be evading a comprehensive audit of its fund releases by taking advantage of a loophole in Republic Act 11332, or the law requiring that “notifiable diseases” be reported to the government.
Marcos noted the law excludes pneumonia from the definition of a notifiable disease, “allowing the band of vultures in PhilHealth to ignore a detailed accounting of pneumonia cases that are being used by hospitals to claim reimbursements through a bill-and-bribe scheme.”
“The legal loophole and the failure of PhilHealth to submit a detailed breakdown on hospital claims abet the ‘Pera sa Pneumonia’ scam that involves overstated or false claims, such as changing the common cold to pneumonia and the treatment of ghost patients,” Marcos said.
Pneumonia has consistently been among the top diseases for which PhilHealth has been releasing funds.
The senator has filed Senate Bill 1416 to amend R.A. 11332, so that pneumonia is specifically identified as a notifiable disease and reportorial requirements are strengthened during pandemics and public health emergencies.
She has also recommended to suspend the collection of premiums by PhilHealth, among the options that the government can take to plug the agency’s loss of billions of pesos in membership contributions and government subsidies to crooked officials at the state insurer.