Lacson wants separate probe of dialysis center ‘favored‘ by PhilHealth execs
MANILA, Philippines — Officials of a “favored” dialysis center that received P45 million from a special fund earmarked for COVID-19 may have to face the Senate in the coming weeks, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Monday.
Lacson said he planned to conduct a separate inquiry into the alleged special treatment that certain officials of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) had extended to B. Braun Avitum Philippines Inc.
The company collected a total of P811 million for dialysis treatments from the state-run corporation from 2015 to 2018.
The senator, who had initiated the Senate investigation into the latest PhilHealth scandal along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, earlier likened B. Braun to WellMed Dialysis Center, which was embroiled in a scheme involving bogus claims for the dialysis of patients who had already died.
Lacson said he would check if the multiagency body led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) would include B. Braun in its own investigation of PhilHealth irregularities, which President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered.
“I think I should pass a separate resolution calling for an inquiry into B. Braun-related anomalies if these will not be included (in the report of the DOJ-led body),” Lacson said in an online interview.
“It’s not necessarily [aimed at going] after B. Braun, but to go after those responsible in PhilHealth [as to] why there’s favoritism,” he said.
Lacson said it was obvious there were favoritism and discrimination (in the release of benefit claims). “There’s really a need for a special inquiry along that line.”
B. Braun and other dialysis clinics, according to the senator, should have been disqualified from getting advance payments from the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), a P30-billion financial package that PhilHealth set aside for COVID-19 patients.
PhilHealth has suspended the IRM amid investigations in the Senate and the House of Representatives that uncovered irregularities in its operations.
Rural bank in Balanga
Lacson said he was also interested to know the real owner of the account in a rural bank in Balanga, Bataan province, to which P9.7 million worth in benefit claims from PhilHealth were mysteriously transferred from its office in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan province.
There was also scant explanation of B. Braun being able to obtain P811 million from PhilHealth for four years despite the limited operations of its dialysis machines, according to Lacson.
Citing official PhilHealth records, he said 15 of B. Braun’s equipment in its branch in Quezon City conducted dialysis treatments that were nearly 134 percent of their “session-to-capacity ratio” in 2018.
‘No ghost machines’
“The [main] issue here is how (B. Braun) was able to get those huge amounts from IRM and the [previous years] swiftly when its session-to-capacity ratio was [questionable],” he said.
The company previously denied allegations linking it to insurance fraud supposedly carried out with the connivance of PhilHealth officials.
“B. Braun Avitum has absolutely no ‘ghost (dialysis) machines’ in any of the center we operate,” the company said.
B. Braun managing director Eduardo Rodriguez also said the company had never operated through “favors or any means other than legitimate and aboveboard transactions.”
Senate committee report
“As a B. Braun employee for 34 years, it pains me greatly to hear all the wrongful allegations made [against] B. Braun, especially in light of the challenges that we hurdle each day since the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rodriguez said.
Sotto was scheduled to report to the Senate plenary on Tuesday the findings and recommendations of the committee of the whole.
“I’m more than satisfied [with Sotto’s committee report],” Lacson said, adding that a number of his colleagues had already signed it.
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