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Dialysis at maternity centers, bakit binigyan ng COVID funds? Ping kicks off Senate hearing with new PhilHealth expose

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Why were dialysis centers and maternity care package providers given COVID funds by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even if they do not handle COVID cases?

Sen. Panfilo Lacson raised this question Tuesday to kick off the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on alleged corruption hounding the agency.

“We dare ask: Why would maternity care package providers and freestanding dialysis centers which do not even cater to COVID-19 patients receive COVID-19 advance payments from PhilHealth? You can see P226M released to freestanding dialysis centers and P4.7M released to maternity care package providers,” Lacson said in his opening statement.

Citing an example, he said five branches of a private freestanding dialysis center, Braun Avitum Dialysis Center Manila, recently received a total of P45,176,518 in a span of only a few days.

In contrast, the Ospital ng Maynila, a public hospital despite multiple appeals has yet to receive its PhilHealth fund reimbursement of a mere P19 million.

“Suffice it to say Mr. President, this is the reason why we are gathered here yet again to conduct this inquiry not only in aid of legislation, but more importantly in aid of the more than 104M members and dependents of PhilHealth, as well as all the taxpayers of this country,” Lacson said.

The hearing stemmed from Senate Resolution 475, filed by Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III. The resolution was later co-authored by almost all the members of the Senate.

In his statement, Lacson said PhilHealth is a “murky, stinking swamp that many of its good and well-meaning people from the officials to their rank-and-file employees want drained, not just of some corrupt but well-entrenched officials who do not seem to run out of malevolent schemes to enrich themselves, but of a deeply rooted, mafia-like syndicate that controls the resources of the corporation, and habitually manipulate its financial records, that even the COA seems helpless in the conduct of their regular audit.”

He also said a closer look shows the PhilHealth story revolves around the same cast of characters:

* Atty. Rodolfo “Jojo” del Rosario, now Senior Vice President of Legal Sector, had been involved in a myriad of issues: as the signatory in the obvious “conflict of interest” in the building lease contract between the Duque-owned Educational and Medical Development Corporation (EMDC) and PhilHealth for the latter’s office building in Region 1; likewise as the OIC of the IT Management Department when the multi-million PhilHealth premium contributions of Accenture, Inc. were allegedly plundered in 2012; and the two successive Zero Performance Ratings of the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) in the Legal Sector.

* Dr. Israel “Ish” Fargas, the SVP for Health Finance Policy Sector; and Corporate Secretary Jonathan Mangaoang, who stirred the allegations of PhilHealth Board’s grave abuse of discretion by reversing the Court of Appeals’ final and executory judgment of Perpetual Succour Hospital’s three-month suspension and P10,000 fine.

Dr. Fargas also turned a blind eye to the notorious and untenable policy called All Case Rate or ACR Payment Scheme of PhilHealth which cost PhilHealth massive losses to overpayment and fraud.

* Dennis Mas, SVP for Management Services Sector, was charged by the Ombudsman for his involvement in the POEA fake receipt scam. Mr. Mas also deliberately failed to disclose the undesirable record of the five recently promoted PhilHealth personnel despite their involvement in big-time scams.

Also, Lacson noted that from 2014 to 2018, PhilHealth incurred billions in disallowances including:

* As of December 31, 2018 – Disallowances: P6.64 Billion
* As of December 31, 2017 – Disallowances: P6.12 Billion
* As of December 31, 2016 – Disallowances: P5.08 Billion
* As of December 31, 2015 – Disallowances: P5.02 Billion
* As of December 31, 2014 – Disallowances: P3.98 Billion

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