Pacquiao slams PhilHealth’s delayed payments to hospitals

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 18 Oct) – Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to immediately release funds due to hospitals in General Santos City and other medical institutions around the country.

The senator, interviewed by phone on Sunday, made the pronouncement after receiving an urgent appeal from eight hospitals in General Santos City who sought his assistance, claiming that they are “close to financial exhaustion” because of PhilHealth’s outstanding payables amounting to P834 million.

“We are at war with this pandemic and there is no need for bureaucratic red tape in time of crisis,” said Pacquiao, who grew up in General Santos and once served as congressional representative of neighboring Sarangani province.

The eight hospitals in General Santos that complained against PhilHealth are Auguis Clinic & Hospital, General Santos Doctors Hospital, Gensan Medical Center, Mindanao Medical Center, RO Diagan Cooperative Hospital, Sarangani Bay Specialists Medical Center, Socsargen County Hospital, and St. Elizabeth Hospital.

“Mounting receivables from PHIC coupled by increased costs brought about by COVID response have dealt a one-two punch on this City’s private hospitals even as they take up the brunt of caring for our sick,” said the Oct. 6 statement signed by the heads of GenSan’s hospitals.

They further claimed that the pandemic has “entailed unforeseen expenses to retrofit hospitals with the necessary structures, barriers and procure equipment recommended for the care of COVID-19 patients.”

Pacquiao noted that the issue of delayed payment or nonpayment of PhilHealth to the various hospitals and those in the frontline “has been dragging on for months.”

He pointed out that Dante Gierran, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer, made a commitment on Aug. 26 during the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability hearing to settle P17 billion out of the P21 billion it owes hospitals.

“Has this been fulfilled? How about the remaining P4 billion?” he asked.

Pacquiao emphasized that billions of pesos have been paid to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation and Starpay Corp. yet the hospitals remain unpaid. “People are dying. Why can we quickly pay companies like Starpay and Pharmally while our medical frontliners and the hospitals they serve remain unpaid?” he lamented.

Pharmally figured in a scandal for supplying billions of pesos worth of medical supplies to government agencies despite its paid-up capital of only P625,000, while Starypay caught lawmakers’ attention when it garnered the lion’s share in distributing money to beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) social amelioration program (SAP), beating much bigger electronic wallet firms like GCash and PayMaya. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)