Labor group blames politicians for Philhealth mess

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) has urged the national government to instantly settle some P19.2 in unpaid dues it owes the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) in order to prevent the firm from becoming insolvent.
“It has become absolutely imperative for the national government to redeem Philhealth now — to guarantee the health insurance coverage of its 79 million members, the majority of whom are private and public sector workers,” said TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera.
Philhealth’s financial distress could be fixed right away, with Congress appropriating a one-time lump sum of P19.2 billion to cover the unpaid dues, Herrera pointed out.
Herrera attributed Philhealth’s “financial distress” partly to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, “who have apparently appropriated as their pork barrel allotments some of the state health agency’s funds.”
In previous elections, Herrera said many politicians brazenly distributed “free” Philhealth membership cards to buy votes. He said the “free” cards provided health insurance coverage for 12 months.
“The question now is who paid for the premiums of these free cards? Somebody had to pay the premiums. Surely the politicians did not, unless of course they have in fact effectively converted some Philhealth funds as their pork barrel allocations,” Herrera said.
While the free cards may have actually helped some constituents who later required hospitalization and other services, these could have also possibly later abetted fraud that damaged Philhealth, Herrera added.
Philhealth officials reckon that the firm easily lost anywhere from P2 billion to P4 billion annually to fraudulent or padded claims over the last 10 years.
Nerissa Santiago, Philhealth vice president for actuary, told a Senate hearing Wednesday that the national government owed the state-run health insurer P19.2 billion, representing unpaid contributions for the mandatory coverage of public sector workers.
Santiago warned that unless the national government paid the dues right away, Philhealth could become bankrupt in seven years.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya later disputed Santiago’s claim, saying the national government actually owed Philhealth only P9 billion in unsettled contributions.
Herrera, however, said he was inclined to believe Santiago’s estimate, since it was made under oath before a Senate heaving.
Philhealth collects P100 to P750 in monthly premiums from every public and private sector worker, with 50 percent of the amount paid for by the employer. In return, workers get health insurance coverage via a network of accredited hospitals and physicians.

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