The state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is supposedly taking “too long” to pay hospital claims because president and CEO Dante Gierran wanted to be “careful” to avoid more issues from hounding the state insurer.
President Rodrigo Duterte made this statement amid criticism over PhilHealth’s pace in processing unpaid claims, which resulted in the closure of some hospitals and affected most hospitals’ manpower amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Go told Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon to inhibit himself from inquiries involving PhilHealth due to “conflict of interest.”
In a privilege speech, Go raised Gordon’s affiliation with the Philippine Red Cross, and mentioned the multi-million memorandum of agreement that the PRC entered into with PhilHealth during the onset of the pandemic last year.
“In the spirit of fairness and impartiality, shouldn’t the Blue Ribbon Committee chair inhibit himself on further hearing or matters involving PhilHealth? Make no mistake, I will not present conclusions here without due process and fairness,” he added.
Gordon, as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, has been demanding payments from PhilHealth for the COVID-19 tests that the humanitarian organization has conducted.
But Gordon responded to Go’s questions by pointing out that it was the Duterte administration who sought the PRC’s help at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“You know that the Red Cross serves. We were not the ones who approached the government. The government approached us,” he told Go.
Gordon dismissed Go’s rants against him as another attempt to distract the public from the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation into the alleged misuse of COVID-19 funds.
“This is another diversionary tactic. They will hit the Senate, they will hit me,” he said.
Go claimed that he had received a reprimand from Gordon when he was asking for help to expedite the release of PhilHealth payments to PRC.
Duterte said he called Gierran to explain why there were delays in the payment of hospital claims.
“I asked him, I called him over ‘Why are you so weak?’ He said, ‘You know this job sir involves receipts of medicines, admissions, discharges in hospitals.’ He said, ‘I have to be careful’,” Duterte said.
He said Gierran noted that PhilHealth “cannot move faster” because he does not want to be accused of irregularities.
Citing PhilHealth spokesperson Dr. Shirley Domingo, Duterte said working on a skeletal force due to the pandemic also made it more difficult to process unpaid claims.
He sought patience from those criticizing PhilHealth as well as the Department of Health.
“Kindly consider the reduced manpower of the departments. Don’t rush them because you can’t. It’s good if you’re helping them at all,” he said.
Hospitals earlier threatened to disengage with PhilHealth by not renewing their accreditation next year should the agency enforce a controversial circular suspending the payment of hospital claims.
Last week, Gierran said PhilHealth owed hospitals P21.1 billion worth of unpaid claims.He also turned emotional over criticism thrown at him and his agency, saying his friends and family were also affected by them.