NAME it, they have it in PhilHealth. Overpricing, a flawed reimbursement mechanism and fake receipts for contributions from overseas workers—they do them all at the government’s health insurance company, resulting in billions of pesos in losses that now imperil the agency’s own existence.
This is appalling. The money that they stole was intended to help those from whom it was exacted during their rainy days so that they won’t have to worry about being refused admission to the hospital when sickness strikes. I have always believed that even thieves have a conscience. But not these thieves obviously.
The depravity is none more apparent than in the theft of contributions from migrant workers. The revelation by PhilHealth’s former senior auditing systems specialist confirmed a Philippine Daily Inquirer expose last year that a syndicate inside PhilHealth was siphoning contributions from overseas workers through the issuance of fake receipts.
The thievery is done in collusion with the liaison officers of the employment agencies that recruited the workers and which were authorized to accept their PhilHealth contributions. Instead of remitting the premiums to the agency, the liaison officer and the corrupt PhilHealth employees divide the money among themselves.
In order to cover their tracks, the thieves issued counterfeit receipts which on their face can fool an unsuspecting eye because they bore actual control numbers used by PhilHealth. Cebu City is among the places where these fake receipts have been reported, according to the Inquirer, although the control numbers that were used had been traced to those that had been assigned to PhilHealth offices also in Danao and Mandaue.
The government losses from this racket have reportedly breached the P1 billion mark already because of the failure of PhilHealth officials to act on the findings of the auditing specialist, who was instead relieved from his post allegedly upon orders of the company’s board.
The allegation can be a good starting point of the investigation that the new PhilHealth CEO, Dante Gierran, is expected to conduct as part of his housecleaning initiatives. Not that he needs any suggestion on where and how to start asking. Gierran was an old hand at the National Bureau of Investigation which he headed until his retirement.
That (his being an NBI veteran) must be the reason why President Duterte chose him to head the scandal-wracked agency despite his self-admitted lack of knowledge on public health. Even if it has at times its own share of controversy, the NBI remains a respected, even feared, organization. His wealth of experience as an investigator should serve him well.
That should give us reason to hope that he will succeed where his immediate predecessor, retired Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales did not. When Morales was appointed PhilHealth CEO in June last year, he promised to “fix the organization and eliminate corruption” and regain public trust. He failed to do so because, in the words of a senator, the syndicate ran rings around him.
Let them try doing that to an NBI man.