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MANILA, Philippines – If there was one thing that top presidential aspirants agreed on when asked about how they could fix the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), that would be leadership.
In the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews aired on Saturday, January 22, four presidential bets who graced the interview – Senator Panfilo Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Vice President Leni Robredo – were asked how they would solve the problems hounding the state health insurer should they be elected as chief executive of the country.
“Sa mismong pagtataya ng Philhealth, maaaring tumagal na lamang ng hanggang 2027 ang actuarial life ng ahensiya. Ibig sabihin hanggang 2027 na lang daw po ang kayang itagal ng reserbang pondo ng Philhealth. Dahil daw ito sa mababang koleksyon pero malaking benefit pay-out dahil sa COVID-19,” Soho said.
(According to PhilHealth estimates, actuarial life of the agency may only last until 2027. That means PhilHealth reserve funds will only last until 2027. This is due to low collection but high benefit pay-out due to COVID-19.)
Then she asked, “Paano mo tutugunan ang problemang hinaharap ngayon ng Philhealth para masigurong maging tuloy-tuloy ang benepisyong hatid nito sa kaniyang mga miyembro?”
(How will you solve the problems hounding PhilHealth to make sure that benefits remain unhampered for its members?)
Moreno was first to answer and said that issues within the agency continue to happen because the government keeps on appointing the wrong leader.
“Hindi ‘yan para sa mga doctor o kung sinu-sino man na mai-appoint (The position is not for doctors or anyone that they want to appoint),” he said. “We have to put a financial guy or group of people who understand finances and how to grow the money of PhilHealth,” Moreno added.
Lacson, meanwhile, did not mince words against former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran, who was appointed as PhilHealth chief by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Unang una, anong ginagawa ng isang abogado na dating NBI director para mamuno sa PhilHealth? Sa tingin ko ang PhilHealth ay isang health insurance, ‘di ba? Dapat ‘yung maalam sa finance ang naghahandle diyan. So doon palang sa skills matching mali na agad,” the senator said.
“First of all, what’s a lawyer and a former NBI director doing to lead PhilHealth? I think PhilHealth is a health insurance, right? It should be someone who knows how to handle finances. In that sense, the skills do not match the position.)
Robredo stressed that someone who is well-versed on health economy and an actuarial scientist should lead the agency. “Kaya nagkaganito ‘yung Philhealth dahil sa leadership na hindi na-manage ng maayos ‘yung opisina, (PhilHealth is in this kind of mess because of the failure of leadership to manage the office),” she said.
“Bakit kaunti ‘yung contributions ngayon? Kulang ‘yung confidence sa Philhealth. Kulang ‘yung confidence kasi ang dami nilang hindi binabayaran,” Robredo added. (Why is there less contributions? There’s not enough confidence for PhilHealth. There’s less confidence because they haven’t paid more hospitals.)
For Pacquiao, corruption within the agency could only be stopped with change of leadership.
Presidential aspirant and son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. skipped the show out of dislike for the veteran journalist whom his team called “biased against the Marcoses.”
In September 2020, Gierran was asked by Duterte to lead PhilHealth at the height of corruption scandals that hounded the state health insurer.
Gierran, a former director of the National Bureau of Investigation, also hardly knows anything about public health. What he knows, according to him, is financial management, the law, insurance, and investigation.
As the country was experiencing surge in infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, a private hospitals’ group planned to hold “PhilHealth holiday,” which means that private hospitals would not deduct state health insurance benefits from a patient’s bill. The plan was later on held off after appeals from different sectors.
On January 11, Gierran assured that the current in-process claims amounting to P25.45 billion would be paid within six months to private hospitals.
On average, PhilHealth said it took 44 days to process a hospital claim in 2020 and 2021. – Rappler.com