THE Philippine Health Insurance Corp. should be abolished and replaced by a new agency through legislation, the Senate blue ribbon committee said in a report on Tuesday after a probe that exposed corruption among high-ranking officials.
“The agency’s vice presidents and regional directors are the real mafia there,” Senator Richard J. Gordon, who heads the committee, told an online news briefing in Filipino.
The lawmaker said the state insurance company had failed to reform itself because high-ranking officials have been involved in various anomalous.
He cited the case of former PhilHealth acting President Roy B. Ferrer, who discovered the ghost dialysis scheme. Mr. Ferrer tried to rotate regional vice presidents but was later sued for the move.
“We do not mean here to prejudge and say he is innocent,” Mr. Gordon said. “We will let the courts decide his fate. But what is beginning to appear is a pattern that is also seen in the fate of De la Serna,” according to a copy of the committee report.
The body was referring to Celestina Ma. Jude P. de la Serna, who was PhilHealth chief between April 2017 and June 2018. She likewise pushed for the assignment rotation of regional officials.
Mr. Gordon recommended that PhilHealth regional directors be reshuffled and subjected to regular lifestyle checks.
He also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct its own investigation for possible plunder charges against some PhilHealth officials.
The Senate committee wants to establish an online death verification system across PhilHealth, the Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System among other retirement services.
It also pushed the creation of a monitoring group on transactions and an Insurance Fraud Detection bureau.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said a faulty information technology system had made it easy for PhilHealth officials to commit fraud.
“The IT system of PhilHealth is fragmented and it can easily be manipulated because there is no centralized control over the management information system,” said during a televised meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday night.
The Justice department, which is conducting a separate probe of PhilHealth, was focusing on the agency’s legal system and financial management, Mr. Guevarra said.
Mr. Duterte vowed to cleanse the agency and prosecute corrupt PhilHealth officials.
PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales and other officials have been accused of pocketing billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money that has bled the agency to death.
The Senate committee found gross overpricing of equipment bought by PhilHealth and favoritism in the release of so-called interim reimbursement mechanism funds.
The mechanism allowed the agency to grant advance payments to health institutions by up to three months during the pandemic, even if only P1 billion had been liquidated.
Former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Keith earlier told the Senate committee the agency’s top officials had pocketed P15 billion through fraudulent programs.
He said the sum came from overpriced equipment the agency had bought, as well as from a program that gave financial aid to health facilities amid a coronavirus pandemic.
PhilHealth officials have denied the allegations. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez