2022 Philippine Elections

Isko Moreno promises better managed PhilHealth under his watch

Pia Ranada
Isko Moreno promises better managed PhilHealth under his watch

WEIGHING IN. Presidential aspirant Isko Moreno suggests ways to improve the state of PhilHealth. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The presidential aspirant vows to pick only finance experts to lead PhilHealth, instead of unqualified 'retirees'

MANILA, Philippines – For Manila Mayor and presidential aspirant Isko Moreno, a key step to solving the problems hounding the Philippines’ state health insurer is to pick the right person to lead it.

Moreno, on Wednesday, December 15, said he would do away with the practice of tapping unqualified “retirees” and will instead choose a finance expert to lead the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) if he is elected president.

“With regard to PhilHealth, alam ninyo, may awa ang Diyos, kung palarin ako, hindi ako maglalagay ng doktor sa PhilHealth, hindi ako maglalagay ng mga retired individual sa PhilHealth,” said Moreno in a press conference in Iloilo City.

(With regard to PhilHealth, if God has mercy and if it’s my destiny, I will not put a doctor in PhilHealth, I will not put a retired individual in PhilHealth.)

“The leadership of PhilHealth and top executive, maglalagay ako ng finance guy. Hindi komo PhilHealth ay health ang pinag-uusapan, it’s finances. Pera ‘yan ng mga miyembro. Dapat ‘yang pera na ‘yan lumalago, pinapalago,” said Moreno.

(For the leadership of PhilHealth and top executives, I will put a finance guy. Just because it’s called PhilHealth doesn’t mean we’re talking about health, it’s finances. That’s the money of the members. That money should be made to grow.)

The 47-year-old presidential aspirant said he would choose someone “young” and well-versed in the science of managing money.

Magtitino ‘yan under my watch (It will become well-managed under my watch),” promised Moreno.

In Iloilo itself, seven hospitals have announced they were not renewing their accreditation to PhilHealth because of the state corporation’s failure to remit over P500 million in claims as of end-August.

Moreno made no mention of President Rodrigo Duterte who appointed retired National Bureau of Investigation chief Dante Gierran to lead PhilHealth. Gierran, a lawyer and certified public accountant, admitted being daunted by the role given his lack of knowledge about PhilHealth operations. Before Gierran, it was a retired army general, Ricardo Morales, whom Duterte had picked to helm PhilHealth.

According to the Universal Health Care Law, a person recommended to become PhilHealth president and CEO must have “at least seven years of experience in the field of public health, management, finance, and health economics, or a combination of any of these expertise.”

While Moreno made a jab at Duterte’s choices of PhilHealth chiefs, he did not name the President in his criticisms. Of late, the Manila chief has tended to defend and praise Duterte, even saying he hoped for the Chief Executive’s endorsement.

Using technology

Yet another way he seeks to improve PhilHealth’s system is by using technology to “synchronize” all the processes involved when hospitals file claims for patients before PhilHealth.

Willie Ong, Moreno’s running mate and a doctor, said that, in his experience, hospitals find it difficult to correctly file claims because of “complicated” paperwork and the non-interoperability of systems on the local level with those of the national level.

Things like late refiling of claims, incomplete requirements, discrepancies in documents submitted by hospitals have been identified by PhilHealth as among the reasons why there have been delays in the state insurer’s payments for the hospitals. This delay has led to severe financial stress for many hospitals, which threatens to cripple a health system critical to the country’s pandemic response.

An efficient online platform to make filing and processing of claims easier could be a solution, said Moreno and Ong, 

Moreno pointed to Manila where he has been able to implement the digitization of city services.  The city’s Go Manila app, for instance, allows Manileños to access city services paying for real property and business tax and other bills. The app won the city second place in this year’s 2021 Digital Governance Awards, recognition from the Department of Information Communications Technology for local government efforts to use ICT to improve citizens’ lives. Manila won two other awards – first place for its COVID-19 laboratory information system and first place for providing tablets, internet, and laptops to students and teachers. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.