Lawmaker hits PhilHealth’s failure to pay Red Cross debt

A House leader on Saturday assailed the Philippine Health Insurance Corp for its failure to pay in full the amount it owes the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said Philhealth’s failure to fulfill its promise could worsen the public’s disillusionment with the state-run health insurer. 

“This is shameful behavior that stains the government’s reputation. PhilHealth has a lot of explaining to do over this mess,” Vargas said.

PRC conducts 30 percent of all COVID-19 testing and its operations are being hampered by PhilHealth’s failure to pay in full its arrears.

Early last week, PhilHealth paid PRC some P500 million, representing half of what the state health insurer owes the humanitarian organization.

Philhealth had earlier vowed to pay its overdue balance to PRC after the Department of Justice issued a legal opinion upholding the legality of their agreement for COVID-19 testing.

PRC chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon said suppliers of materials used in COVID testing were still awaiting payment from the Red Cross and some had withheld delivery of critical supplies.

PRC stopped conducting free COVID-19 tests for returning overseas Filipino workers and frontliners starting October 15 due to Philhealth’s failure to pay its outstanding balance of P930 million. Gordon said the debt had since ballooned to P1.1 billion. 

Also affected by PRC’s halt of COVID-19 tests are individuals arriving in airports and seaports, as well as those covered by the Department of Health’s expanded testing protocol.

Vargas said Philhealth’s continued refusal to settle its debt with PRC was resulting in additional costs to both OFWs and the government. 

“We already have close to 6,000 OFWs stranded, and more than a thousand expected arrivals daily. Sa bawat araw na stranded sila dahil sa quarantine, gumagastos din ang pamahalaan,” he said.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the government was spending at least P9,000 for each OFW billeted at hotels for quarantine.

Some 5,200 OFWs are currently stranded in hotels in Metro Manila while waiting for the results of their RT-PCR tests. 

Topics: Philippine Red Cross , Alfred Vargas , Philhealth , COVID-19 , Department of Justice
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