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'15-billion PhilHealth fraud challenge' trends on Facebook

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Sep 24, 2020 9:26 pm

PhilHealth, the country’s administrator of the National Health Insurance Program, trended yesterday on Facebook with the hashtag #wag_kalimutan_yung_binulsang_15billion_sa_philhealth_challenge (do not forget the 15 billion pocketed by PhilHealth).

The hashtag has gotten 117,000 shares as of this morning, Sept. 25.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is the DOH-attached agency that provides health insurance coverage to Filipinos.

It came under fire last month when its former anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith accused the “PhilHealth mafia” of pocketing P15 billion from the agency through fraudulent schemes, including payment to hospitals and COVID-19 testing kits.

Keith had earlier resigned from PhilHealth due to “widespread corruption.”

Testifying before the Senate Committee of the Whole on Aug. 4, Keith said he was ordered by PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo C. Morales “para hilutin ang kaso ng PhilHealth sa overpriced testing kits” or to manipulate the case.

Morales denied the allegations.

On Aug. 8 he informed the Senate committee that he was going on a medical leave due to his ongoing chemo treatments for lymphoma, and would not be present at its Aug. 11 hearing.

In a succeeding Senate hearing, Senator Francis Pangilinan called the current allocation system of PhilHealth “a complete disaster and a huge stumbling block for our hospitals to be able to effectively address the killer pandemic.”

Another controversy involving hospitals under Morales’ watch became public when 600 hospitals threatened to pull out of PhilHealth over non-payment in October 2019.

The agency came under Senate investigation over COVID-19 testing kits in May this year with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon grilling Morales over alleged overpriced packages costing P8,150 each. Two weeks later, the agency released new COVID-19 kits costing only P3,409.

The fraud allegations came only a year after Morales, a retired brigadier general, became PhilHealth chief, named by President Duterte to its board of directors in 2019, which then votes on a new head.

Morales resigned on Aug. 26 and Duterte appointed former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran as new chief.