People suffer as PhilHealth suspends IRM

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    ‘… PhilHealth, that well-thought of agency nurtured both by Congress and the Executive department to help extend health services to all Filipinos, was taken hostage by rapacious managers.’

    IT is unfortunate, horrible even, that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) had to suspend its cash advance system for hospitals, at a time like this when all the nation’s health care facilities are financially and organizationally strained.

    PhilHealth said it has stopped its interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) to conduct an evaluation on the system. There is a need to review the overall implementation of the IRM and resolve issues arising from congressional inquiries, the state health insurance firm said.

    The government-owned corporation believes that during the period of suspension, it could find ways to make the IRM more responsive to the needs of healthcare facilities affected by the current pandemic to assure patients of continuous access to needed health services.

    In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Philippines, all hospitals whether public or private have suffered similar problems of lack of supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of beds for COVID-19 patients, health personnel falling ill and needing transportation and temporary accommodation not factored in before in the hospitals’ budget, etc. As the medical centers and health facilities take the double hit of spiking expenses and constricting government support, the masses especially poor Filipinos who have been infected by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will suffer the most.

    PhilHealth has explained that the IRM or “emergency cash advance” was being used by the agency to assist health care institutions in case of fortuitous events such as the coronavirus pandemic. But the implementation of the IRM has been criticized recently during the Senate hearings as there were allegations of favoritism in the distribution of funds to the medical facilities.

    The senators are hardly to blame for insisting that PhilHealth should temporarily suspend its cash advance mechanism for hospitals. The Senate and the offices of individual senators, such as Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis “Tol” Tolentino and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson have been swamped with reports and pieces of evidence supporting such complaints, about rampant corruption and cheating practices going on at PhilHealth, sometimes in collusion with unscrupulous banks and hospitals.

    These developments coincided with leaves of absence and resignations of high officials of PhilHealth, and the seeming inability of its president and CEO, Ricardo Morales, to manage the corporation well and steer its operations to achieve its avowed mandate under the law. Meanwhile, two groups of officials of PhilHealth are trading accusations of graft and corruption, which further bolsters the belief that PhilHealth, under Morales and by extension, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as its chairman, is terribly mismanaged.

    This is the latest tally board that stares us in the face. Confirmed COVID-19 cases, 161,253 with 3,420 new; deaths of 2,665 with 65 new, and recoveries of 112,586 with 40,397 new. It is today when the faucet of assistance called IRM has been closed for hospitals and medical centers, at a time when it is most needed.

    And all because PhilHealth, that well-thought of agency nurtured both by Congress and the Executive department to help extend health services to all Filipinos, was taken hostage by rapacious managers.