PhilHealth says it has funds to pay Red Cross

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    BY GERARD NAVAL and ASHZEL HACHERO

    THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) yesterday said it has enough funds to settle its financial obligations but will have to wait for “proper legal guidance” from the Department of Justice on how to proceed with paying the Philippine Red Cross.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the department is reviewing a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between PhilHealth and the Philippine Red Cross which last week stopped conducting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth because of the latter’s debt of almost P1 billion.

    Guevarra said new PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran requested the DOJ for a review of the MOA. The DOJ’s opinion will be issued within the week.

    Under the MOA, PhilHealth is supposed to provide Red Cross a P100-million revolving fund to cover the costs of priority tests requested by various government agencies.

    Guevarra said the review will cover the whole MOA, but “more particularly on the procurement issues.”

    Asked if PhilHealth officials will be held liable, Guevarra said they are not ruling out anything though he added the review is more on the validity of the agreement.

    A DOJ-led task force investigated the alleged anomalies in PhilHealth, particularly on the issue of the interim reimbursement mechanism funds, and procurement projects of the state health insurer. The probe resulted in the filing of charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against resigned PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and several other PhilHealth officials.

    The statements from PhilHealth and Guevarra came a day after presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government may pay PhilHealth either this week or next week.

    PhilHealth, in a statement, also appealed for more patience from those affected by the stoppage of Red Cross’ processing of COVID tests chargeable to the state agency, as it “moves forward with this partnership with the proper legal support, all in aid of ensuring that members’ funds are properly handled and disbursed.”

    “PhilHealth is reiterating that it has the funds to pay its obligations to PRC,” it also said.

    The Department of Health acknowledged that losing PRC as a partner in the COVID-19 response is a major development.

    Red Cross accounts for about 25 percent of all COVID-19 testing, including those on returning and repatriated overseas Filipino workers, and health workers. Government has almost 150 government accredited laboratories that conduct and process COVID tests.