PhilHealth should get advice from the UK’s NHS

"No more on-the-job training, please. Time to bring in the experts."


At the time he appointed Ricardo Morales as president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, President Rodrigo Duterte assured the Filipino people that Mr. Morales, a recently-retired Philippine Army general, had a good professional record and likely able to clean up the mess at the agency.

The hearings conducted recently by the Senate, however—and the 171-page report that followed—showed the utter failure of the former military officer’s tenure of the presidency of the institution that is mandated to implement the Universal Health Care Act. Mr. Morales heads the list of officials recommended for prosecution by the task force created by Malacanang to investigate the PhilHealth anomalies.

At the time of his appointment, Ricardo Morales knew next to nothing about the management and operation of a PhilHealth-type institution. He admitted as much. But that was all right, President Duterte said. Mr. Morales’ reputation and record would compensate for that deficiency. Being the chief executive of PhilHealth is not an on-the-job training, but that is how things turned out to be in the case of Mr. Morales. One does not have to be a management expert to be able to pronounce the Morales presidency a complete disaster.

And now Mr. Duterte has appointed a former colleague from his Davao City mayorship days, Dante Gierran, to succeed Morales. Until his retirement a few years ago, Mr. Gierran was the director of the National Bureau of Investigation. Being both a lawyer and a certified public accountant, the new PhilHealth president/ CEO has more than ample professional qualification, but there have been hints from Malacañang that President Duterte was looking to Mr. Gierran’s investigative experience to see him through the PhilHealth job.

Like his immediate predecessor, the new PhilHealth chief executive has admitted that he knows nearly nothing about national health insurance and the running of a PhilHealth-type institution. But he was willing to learn, the former NBI chief promised the nation. He would do his best.

Given the grave financial predicament of PhilHealth—Senate President Vicente Sotto III spoke of a “deep hole”—this country can no longer be content with protestations of good intent and I-will-do-my-best promises. The time for OJT for the PhilHealth president/ CEO is over. It’s time to bring in the experts.

Let the Duterte administration seek the assistance of what is reputedly the best national health insurance system in the world. I refer to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. So highly regarded, in fact, is the NHS that at one point US President Donald Trump told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, jokingly, of the US’ interest in buying the NHS. Emulated by many national health insurance systems, the NHS has racked up nearly 70 years of experience, having been established in the late-1940s heyday of British socialism.

The time for fun and games—lucrative fund and games, to be sure—is over. Really serious business must now begin. The government of the UK will almost certainly be only too happy to provide, if requested, technical assistance to the Philippine government relating to the restructuring and management of PhilHealth.

Mr. Gierran appears to be a good man and a competent professional, but the sustained good management of PhilHealth needs the advice and assistance of people who really know how to manage a national health insurance institution. No more OJT, please.

Topics: Rudy Romero , Ricardo Morales , Philippine Health Insurance Corporation , PhilHealth ,
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