By Nancy Carvajal
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has confirmed that officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) can be bribed to turn a blind eye to erring hospitals and doctors.
A source told Politiko that Duque testified about the “parking fee” given to Philhealth officials when he appeared before the task force investigating the anomalies within the state-run health insurer.
The so called “parking fee” is paid so that Philhealth will not implement adverse decisions– including suspension– against healthcare institutions and professionals found guilty of wrongdoing.
Politiko’s source said Duque told investigators that Philhealth’s decision indicting those involved in the questionable reimbursement of 3,000 cataract treatments were put on hold because “parking fee” was paid.
Under Philhealth rules, the Board of Directors can order the implementation of a decision on a case.
“The [cataract] cases were raised to the Philhealth board by the prosecutors which recommended administrative action against the healthcare providers, but nothing happened,” the source said.
Philhealth has its own prosecutors with subpoena powers. Its quasi-judicial powers also mean that it can render decisions and implement them immediately pending appeal.
A high-ranking former Philhealth official earlier told investigators from the task force that the payment of a “parking fee” is rampant within the state-run health insurer.
“The official learned that the implementation of the decisions can be stalled for a fee,” Politiko’s source said.
Resigned Philhealth senior vice president for legal sector Rodolfo Del Rosario admitted to senators in a recent hearing that the pace of prosecuting erring Philhealth officials, hospitals and doctors had been slow, with thousands of cases yet to be filed in court.