Is PhilHealth favoring certain laboratories?



    SEN. Richard Gordon yesterday asked if the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is deliberately delaying payment of COVID-19 testing so that the Philippine Red Cross will be forced to stop operations to benefit other “favored” molecular laboratories.

    Gordon asked the question after PhilHealth’s debt to the PRC stands at P762.8 million as of Sunday morning for unpaid COVID-19 tests.

    PhilHealth spokesman Rey Baleña said the state insurer owes Red Cross P635.4 million as of December 20.

    Gordon raised the possibility that PRC will again stop accepting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth as the organization cannot sustain its operations which he said were not limited to COVID testing.

    Gordon said PRC has so far tested 1,589,568 individuals followed by Detoxicare Philippines which has conducted 498,164 tests while the Department of Health’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has tested 388,816 persons.

    Once PRC stops accepting COVID-19 test referrals from PhilHealth, individuals will be tested by other molecular laboratories.

    “Ang total balance nila ngayon ay P762.8 million. Ang alam ko kapag tumigil kami yung mga alaga ng ilang tao diyan eh, yan ang nakikita ko … Hindi ko alam (kung sinasadya) kung minsan nagiging madumi ang aking pag-iisip dahil bakit hindi pa magbayad di ba (PhilHealth’s total balance is now at P762.8 million. If PRC stops operations, favored laboratories [will benefit] that’s how I look at it… I don’t know if PhilHealth is deliberately doing this but my wild imagination tells me otherwise. Why don’t they just pay up?)” he said.

    Gordon again appealed to PhilHealth to settle its obligations every three days so that a “livable” range of P100-million debt can be achieved.

    Baleña said PhilHealth is preparing to pay PRC P112 million this week from its current debt.

    “We will have to continue reconciling our records with PRC, especially on the claims that were returned for compliance,” said Baleña.

    Outside their outstanding balance, the PhilHealth official said they have already been able to settle a huge chunk of their debts to PRC.

    “As of December 17, we have paid P2.7 billion,” said Baleña.

    Last October, the PRC stopped conducting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth due to the agency’s failure to settle its outstanding balance of around P1 billion.

    COVID-19 testing resumed only after PhilHealth was able to pay PRC a significant amount for its debts.

    Last Saturday, Gordon said PhilHealth’s debts for COVID-19 testing has again ballooned to P800 million.

    In a related development, the PRC expressed hopes that its saliva testing for COVID-19 will get the approval from the Department of Health.

    In a radio interview, PRC biomolecular laboratories head Dr Paulyn Ubial said they are hoping that its use will be allowed in the country already owing to its benefits.

    “The University of Illinois has conducted 1 million saliva tests, and it has a 99 percent detection or concordance rate,” said the former DOH secretary.

    “The saliva test is cheaper and simpler to do,” added Ubial.

    Last October, the PRC successfully rolled out its trials for the saliva testing for COVID-19.