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PhilHealth COVID-19 Benefits Unaffected by Freeze on Hospital Cash Advances

The mechanism was suspended in response to corruption probes.
by Joel Guinto
Aug 14, 2020
Photo/s: Website/PhilHealth

PhilHealth said COVID-19 benefits such as testing and isolation packages continue to be available to members, even as it suspended an emergency cash advance system to hospitals worth up to P30 billion that was set up to respond to the pandemic.

The Interim Reimbursement Mechanism was put on hold "resolve all issues" raised during legislative hearings, the state-run insurer said. The Senate is investigating corruption allegations in PhilHealth to ensure its financial viability in the face of the health crisis.

"Regular COVID-19 inpatient benefits, testing and community isolation packages shall continue to be enjoyed by its affected members," PhilHealth said on Twitter. The agency said the IRM is "legal and necessary."

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Before being implemented as a cash advance facility for hospitals, the IRM was activated for the Taal Volcano eruption in January. It is designed to to "respond to unanticipated events like natural disaster and calamities," according to PhilHealth.

Earlier this week, PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales said he was going on sick leave, casting doubt on his appearance on future investigations. Aside from the Senate, the Office of the President also ordered an inquiry into the agency.

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The investigations uncovered alleged overpricing in procurementFor instance, Adobe Master Collection software was priced at P21 million compared to the approved cost of P168,000. Structured cabling cost P5 million from P500,000. Two sets of laptops were said to be worth P119.43 million. Corruption allegations in PhilHealth are not new, several years back, an alleged racket was exposed wherein the dialysis bills of ghost patients were used to cash in claims.

Up to P15 billion was lost to corruption, according to one whistleblower, Thorrson Montes Keith, PhilHealth's own anti-fraud official who has since resigned. Keith said overseas Filipino workers were unfairly charged the share of their employers in PhilHealth contributions on top of their own. He described it to senators as the "crime of the year."

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