PhilHealth debt to Red Cross rises to P623 million
The increase in debt came days after PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said PhilHealth had to settle its remaining debt of P571 million as a hefty chunk of Red Cross funds had been used for COVID-19 test kit procurement.
STAR/File

PhilHealth debt to Red Cross rises to P623 million

Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. has accumulated a debt of P623 million that it owes the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 testing services.

The increase in debt came days after PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said PhilHealth had to settle its remaining debt of P571 million as a hefty chunk of Red Cross funds had been used for COVID test kit procurement.

“It’s really the non-payment of bills on time that is killing us here because they owe us now, as of Dec. 1, P623,321,000,” Gordon said in an interview aired over ANC, adding that the PRC had been using up P25 million a day in testing.

Unless PhilHealth is able to bring down the debt to P100 million, Gordon said the PRC might once again be forced to halt its testing services amid the rising number of cases.

Red Cross earlier halted the testing it was doing for the government due to the more than P1-billion debt incurred by PhilHealth. It resumed testing in October after the state insurer paid half of its debt.

PhilHealth’s outstanding balance, as said in previous instances by the Red Cross, had been preventing them from procuring test kits and depriving them of resources needed to operate its 21 testing laboratories in the country, which had been doing the lion’s share of COVID-19 testing.

“I don’t want to be a hog and say prioritize us, but you see, I have no choice. If they don’t pay us, then we are forced to stop. And when we are forced to stop, as you see, Manila is rising, and the Philippine Red Cross – I’m not trying to brag, I’m not greedy. What I’m saying is, 37 percent of Manila is being tested by the PRC,” Gordon explained.

While PhilHealth CEO Dante Gierran had already assured Gordon that the agency would settle its balance, considering that the insurer “has plenty of money,” it still appeared remiss in its obligations under the two parties’ agreements.

Under an agreement brokered between PRC and PhilHealth, the latter should maintain only a debt of P100 million and that bills accumulated for three days should be settled immediately. But in most instances, PhilHealth has only been able to pay P100 million every 10 days.

What’s derailing PhilHealth’s efforts to settle its debt with the Red Cross was not a refusal to pay, according to the senator, but bureaucratic delays.

“It’s bureaucracy really… I think they’re trying. There are many good people. But of course, in the past, they were liberal with the money and a lot of money was lost,” Gordon said, citing the investigation on alleged malfeasances within PhilHealth.

The PRC’s testing services for the government make up the lion’s share of the country’s testing capacity, with about 30 percent of the total COVID-19 testing capacity being accounted for by the organization. The Red Cross also contributed about 38 percent of Metro Manila’s testing.

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