Palace appeals to nurses’ ‘sense of nationalism’ anew

MANILA – Malacañang rejected Thursday the proposed privatization of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) amid allegations of corruption within the state-run insurer.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said a House bill allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to privatize PhilHealth would defeat the state insurer’s purpose of providing affordable and accessible health care services to all Filipino citizens.

“Kaya po iyan (PhilHealth) nasa ilalim ng gobyerno dahil ang pagbigay po ng kalusugan ay isang karapatan ng taumbayan at obligasyon ng estado (The reason why it’s under the government is to ensure that the public’s right to health is protected and the state’s obligation is fulfilled),” Roque said in a virtual press conference.

On Wednesday, Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo filed House Bill (HB) 7429, or the proposed Social Health Insurance Crisis Act, as the government-owned insurance firm faces a slew of investigations for supposed massive corruption involving its officials and personnel.

HB 7429 authorizes the President to revamp the executive leadership of PhilHealth by privatizing any or all segments of the agency, if necessary, to make it more effective to address the social health insurance crisis.

Under the measure, the President is allowed to abolish or create offices, transfer functions, institute drastic cost-cutting, and take other measures to reorganize PhilHealth.

Roque, author of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law when he was a party-list representative during the 17th Congress, believed otherwise, saying it would be difficult for Filipinos, especially the poor, to access quality and affordable health care services.

“Kapag binigay po iyan sa private na mga kumpanya, insurance po iyan (It will turn into an insurance firm that will be controlled by private firms),” he said. “Talagang ang mga mahihirap, hindi po kayang bayaran ang pagpapagamot dahil wala po silang mga insurance (The poor could no longer afford to buy medicines because they don’t have insurance).”

The UHC Law or Republic Act 11223 signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20, 2019 seeks to protect and promote Filipinos’ right to health by automatically enrolling them in the government’s health insurance program.

PhilHealth is tasked to lead the implementation of RA 11223.

However, PhilHealth is subject to ongoing investigations due to supposed widespread corruption and irregularities committed by the agency’s top officials and employees.

On Aug. 7, Duterte ordered the Department of Justice to lead the task force mandated to conduct a probe against PhilHealth.

Other members of the task force include the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

Roque said Duterte is optimistic that criminal charges will be filed against PhilHealth personnel who will be found to be involved in corrupt activities.

“Kampante po si Presidente na given the composition and the integrity of the individuals behind the task force, lahat po ng may sala ay hindi lang masu-suspend kundi madi-dismiss at makakasuhan ng kasong criminal (The President is confident that given the composition and the integrity of the individuals behind the task force, all offenders will not just be suspended but will also be dismissed and will face criminal charges),” he said. PNA –