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PhilHealth gets go-ahead to pay P900-m debt

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) said it will pay its nearly P1 billion debt to the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 testing on Monday after receiving a legal opinion of the Department of Justice.

The DOJ cleared the memorandum of agreement entered into by PhilHealth with the PRC for the advance payment of P100 million for the COVID-19 tests despite laws mandating reimbursements instead.

“Having been in receipt today of the DOJ legal opinion saying that the PhilHealth-PRC MOA is not subject to Procurement Law, PhilHealth will release payment on Monday, October 26, 2020, subject to completeness of billing requirements submitted by the PRC,” PhilHealth said in a statement Friday night.

Last week, the PRC suspended the COVID-19 testing of repatriated Filipinos until PhilHealth is able to settle its P930 million debt.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said some 6,000 returning OFWs had been stranded in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila since October 15 after the Red Cross stopped conducting COVID-19 tests for the government.

Bello admitted it is now taking longer for OFWs to receive the results of their RT-PCR tests, which used to take only one to two days when PRC was in charge.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Friday recommended the filing of criminal, civil and administrative charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales in connection with the alleged billion-peso anomalies in the state health insurer.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said the report on the panel's investigation on PhilHealth anomalies recommended the filing of two cases against Duque, who is ex officio chairman of the PhilHealth board of directors.

However, the report has only been prepared at the committee level and must be approved by the chamber in plenary session in order to be the stand of the House.

The first charge, Defensor said, involved the reversal of the Court of Appeals' ruling on the case of Cebu-based Perpetual Succor Hospital, which was found guilty of two counts of extending a patient’s period of confinement in violation of PhilHealth law.

The CA ordered the three-month suspension and a P10,000 fine on the hospital but the PhilHealth board amended the ruling and instead imposed a P100,000 fine with no suspension.

Defensor did not explain how the PhilHealth board could amend a CA ruling since acts of the appellate court were appealable only to the Supreme Court when there were questions of law involved in a case.

However, Defensor said the Perpetual Succor case “is not so much on the corruption angle but on the temerity of PhilHealth to reverse a judicial order.”

The second case involving Duque is the interim reimbursement mechanism, which allowed the insurer to issue cash advances to hospitals.

The practice should not have been done, Defensor said.

Duque has maintained that he was not involved in the implementation of the IRM, stressing that he was not a voting chairman of the Board.

In the case of Morales, Defensor said the charges against the former PhilHealth president stemmed from his chairmanship of the insurer's executive committee that recommended the release of the IRM funds.

Morales has likewise denied any wrongdoing.

Topics: Philippine Health Insurance Corp. , Philippine Red Cross , COVID-19 testing
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