The country's health insurer should first do away with alleged corruption in its ranks before it pushes through with increasing its monthly contribution, Sen. Richard Gordon said Monday.
Gordon is also chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, which has had issues collecting payment from Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for COVID-19 tests.
A whistleblower alleged in 2020 that officials had amassed some P15 billion from the agency through irregular transactions. The allegations eventually resulted in a change in leadership, along with charges filed against former PhilHealth officials.
Gordon, speaking to CNN Philippines‘ “The Source,” joined other lawmakers in opposing a hike in PhilHealth premiums mandated by the Universal Health Care Act. The hike comes at a time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Before they raise premiums, they should clean house because there is a lot of corruption at PhilHealth,” Gordon said party in Filipino.
The hike, scheduled under the Universal Health Care law, will raise contributions by PhilHealth members by 3.5%. The agency's new president and CEO Dante Gierran has conceded that their hands are tied to implement this despite the pandemic.
This means those earning below P10,000 would have to pay premiums of P350. Those earning from P10,000 to P69,999 will pay premiums of between P350 and P2,449, while those with salaries of P70,000 or higher will pay P2,450 a month.
Gordon has been at odds with PhilHealth over unpaid debt for COVID-19 tests/
Last October, Red Cross halted its tests for nearly two weeks after PhilHealth failed to settle more than P1 billion in overdue amounts, dealing a blow to the country's overall testing capacity.
While PhilHealth has since made staggered payments, its debt has grown anew to P762.87 million by the start of 2021, with the last payment made in December 29.
“We're kinda biting our nails,” Gordon said. “We fear that as the amount increases, we may not be able to resume operations again because we have costs to pay,” he said in Filipino.
Ten months since the pandemic hit the Philippines, private-run labs such as the Red Cross still conduct most COVID-19 screenings.
“What I don't understand is they're saying they cannot pay. I think that's bureaucratic delay and they better be careful,” Gordon said. “Delay is punishable under the law also, especially in these times.”
The Philippine Red Cross chair did not say whether the organization plans to sue PhilHealth, saying only that Gierran does not seem to be performing well.