Kiko wants purge of PhilHealth’s questionable records after IRM suspension
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Pangilinan called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to rid its records of “unauthorized recipients and other anomalous transactions” under its Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM).
The state health insurer has announced the suspension of the IRM to have it reviewed after several senators called for its temporary halt amid allegations that the release of funds for the country’s coronavirus response was marred with irregularities.
The IRM is an emergency cash advance measure of PhilHealth to provide hospitals with an emergency fund to respond to natural disasters, calamities as well as other unexpected events.
“It’s a step that should have been done earlier. Kung binubulsa ang COVID funds sa IRM system, bakit itutuloy ang sistema [If COVID funds are being pocketed, why would you continue the system]?” Pangilinan said in a statement on Friday.
“Let us use this time to purge the PhilHealth records of unauthorized recipients and other anomalous transactions and preserve whatever peso is left in the agency’s coffers,” he added.
The senator said the suspension of what he called as PhilHealth’s “leaky” hospital reimbursement system is a “temporary yet critical measure” in the fight against corruption as well as efforts to lead to better pandemic response.
“It is also vital to protect the money coming in from members’ contributions because this will help sustain the agency’s fund life. And all this must be done quickly as the COVID cases continue to rise,” Pangilinan added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, likewise, welcomed PhilHealth’s decision to halt the release of funds through its IRM.
“Dapat ay i-audit or liquidate muna para i-lay to rest yung mga isyu na nai-raise in the past about favoritism, ng non-liquidation, and other issues,” she told reporters in an online interview.
(This should be audited or liquidated to lay to rest all of these issues that had been raised in the past about favoritism, of non-liquidation, and other issues.)
“I agree na dapat syang suspendihin ngayon temporarily, hanggat satisfactorily at hangga’t maaga maclear ang issues ng favoritism at iba pa,” she added.
(I agree that this should be temporarily suspended now, until satisfactorily and as soon as possible the issues are clear regarding favoritism and others.)
For Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, the suspension of the IRM is a “good first step towards transparency.”
He said this would allow state auditors and the Office of the Ombudsman to monitor and account for the earlier releases of the funds.
During a Senate hearing last August 4, a resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer alleged that a mafia-like syndicate has pocketed P15 billion through various schemes, including the release of funds through the IRM. PhilHealth has denied this claim in the “strongest terms.”
PhilHealth also maintained that its IRM is “legal and necessary” for the country’s COVID-19 response amid controversies and allegations of favoritism in its implementation.
PhilHealth further assured that affected members will still continue to enjoy COVID-19 inpatient benefits.
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