State insurer PhilHealth should pay its remaining debt for COVID-19 testing to the Philippine Red Crossin 3 days to prevent it from getting bigger, which could result in the suspension of testing, its chairman said Wednesday.
PhilHealth paid an initial P500 million to the PRC on Tuesday, or about half of its P1.1 billion debt. According to PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, the remaining P561 million covers 160,475 tests.
"The debt is due and demandable. The agreement says upon demand by the Red Cross of payment, when we submit the receipts and all the things that go with this such as the records, pictures and results, they should pay in 3 days," Gordon told ANC.
Earlier this month, the PRC temporarily halted PhilHealth-funded COVID tests after the state insurer’s debt mounted to P930 million. Returning Filipino workers and frontliners, who would usually be covered by PhilHealth-funded testing under the PRC, had to pay to get tested in different laboratories or medical institutions.
During this time, PRC accepted private institutions and individuals for testing.
The PRC resumed PhilHealth-funded testing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday night after the initial payment was made. Other PRC laboratories likewise resumed PhilHealth-funded tests on Wednesday.
Gordon said PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran promised to pay for the debt in full after talks with Exec. Sec Salvador Medialdea, testing czar Sec. Vince Dizon, and Sen. Bong Go, but has since changed his statement.
"They are aware of the contract and he said he’s going to pay it. I don’t know why he did not pay the whole amount," Gordon said, in reference to Gierran.
"It’s hard to talk with them. If they are not serious we are deadly serious," he added.
The PRC chief urged PhilHealth to pay the remaining debt in 3 days lest they incur bigger balances, which could result in another suspension of PhilHealth-funded testing via the PRC, which has done a million tests and counting since the virus landed on Philippine shores.
"They are responsible for deaths that will happen, they are responsible if there’s a surge right now. There could be a surge in testing of positives. I hope it doesn’t happen. I pray it doesn’t happen…This country cannot afford to have another lockdown," Gordon said.
Gordon said Gierran has been “so afraid” to decide as PhilHealth chairman, perhaps due to the state insurer’s track record of alleged corruption. Gordon said the position leaves no room for hesitation especially with decisions concerning Filipino lives.
"You cannot play Russian roulette and you cannot put a man there who is afraid to make decisions. If he is afraid, give it to somebody else," he said.
Gierran, formerly a director of the National Bureau of Investigation, was appointed PhilHealth chief in August after former chief Ricardo Morales resigned in the middle of investigations on the alleged corruption within the agency.