By Butch Fernandez, July 4 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE Senate is poised to open a full-blown inquiry into the reported Philippine Health Insurance  Corp. fund anomalies involving assorted scams, including fraudulent claims that caused huge losses of over P154-billion, including recently
uncovered ‘ghost’ dialysis treatments.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said Congress must promptly mount an inquiry in aid of passing remedial legislation to prevent the PhilHealth fund’s dissipation from assorted scams as soon as lawmakers resume plenary sessions on July 22.

“Before Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care [UHC] Act is implemented in full, we must make sure that the funds allocated for this purpose are being spent properly,” Angara said on Wednesday, following reports that a dialysis center was found to be making fraudulent claims from PhilHealth for deceased patients who used to get treatments for kidney disease.

The senator suspects there may be other scams targeting funds of the State-run PhilHealth, saying in Filipino, “It seems this is not the only problem as many reports have shown other scams using the PhilHealth funds.”

Moving to avert other scams, Angara filed a resolution paving the way for a Senate inquiry “into all the allegations of fraudulent medical claims” to PhilHealth, as he voiced concern that “funds that are intended for the poor and for those who are in actual need of medical assistance should be protected.”

Angara said Senate probers are keen to “get to the bottom of all these reported scams, identify the personalities behind them, and come up with policies to prevent similar cases from taking place in the future.”

The senator said the upcoming inquiry will spare no one, if found to be involved in the multibillion-peso PhilHealth fund scam.

A the same time, Angara have assurances that the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs, is working on early passage of a bill increasing excise tax on tobacco products, and allocating the proceeds to supplement funding for UHC.

Congress recently passed a bill raising the excise tax on tobacco, heated tobacco and vapor products to cover budgetary gaps for the full implementation of the UHC. A whopping P257 billion is needed just for the first year of UHC’s implementation.

It was reported that PhilHealth has lost a total of P154 billion since 2013 due to these scams, the latest of which involved the ghost dialysis treatments that were uncovered after former employees of WellMed Dialysis Laboratory Corp. based in Novaliches, Quezon City, exposed the alleged fraudulent claims made by their former employer to PhilHealth.

The whistle-blowers said WellMed claimed funds for dialysis treatments of patients even if they were not able to avail of their weekly sessions, adding that claims were also made “even for those were already dead.”