Another bill granting Duterte powers to reorganize PhilHealth filed

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Another bill giving President Rodrigo Duterte powers to reorganize the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) amid the alleged anomalies hounding the agency was filed in the House of Representatives.

House Bill No 7832 or the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation Crisis Act of 2020 prescribes “urgent related measures necessary and proper to effectively address the problems and concerns” affecting the agency.

Among these measures is the President being granted powers to reorganize PhilHealth.

“The President is hereby empowered to reorganize the [PhilHealth], to make it more effective, innovative and responsive to its current problems and concerns as regards sustainability of finds and issues regarding graft and corruption, among others,” the bill states.

“For this purpose, the President may abolish or create offices; split, group, or merge positions; transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel; institute drastic cost cutting measures and take such other related actions necessary to carry out the purpose herein declared,” the bill adds.

The authority granted to the President shall be valid and effective for a period of one year from the effectivity of the measure, unless withdrawn or extended by a resolution from Congress.

Further, in a move to “protect the funds of PhilHealth and cleanse the agency of graft and corruption”, the bill also allows the President to enter into negotiated contacts with the following, among others:

Companies and/or individuals capable of providing actuarial study for PhilHealth;

Companies and/or individuals who can provide accounting and auditing services;

Offices and/or individuals who can provide legal services in pursuit of cases pending in PhilHealth and those that may be filed by PhilHealth management;

IT services in coordination with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) which will provide a baseline assessment, study, and provision of necessary equipment required in relation to the payment of benefits and collection of premiums, among others;

Other services necessary to ensure the effective and efficient function of PhilHealth

The bill was filed by House Committee on Public Accounts chairperson Michael Defensor, Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chairperson Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, and Reps. Robert Ace Barbers, Jesus Crispin Remulla, Dan Fernandez, Rodante Marcoleta and Elpidio Barzaga Jr.

The lawmakers filed the measure following the PhilHealth probe jointly conducted by the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

In the bill’s explanatory note, the lawmakers pointed out that preliminary funding estimates for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act over the next five years starting 2020 sees the need for an aggregate state funding of P1.437 trillion.

“The staggering amount needed to improve our health system should be safeguarded in order to ensure that the funds are used for their intended purposes. It is worrying that PhilHealth, as one of the primary conduits of the funds to be raised for the UHC Law, has a history of corruption issues,” the lawmakers said.

“Within the context of a history of systemic corruption, a pandemic that is yet to end, and imminent implementation of the UHC law which will flush PhilHealth with a spike in funding, this makes for an emergency situation that requires drastic but thorough overhaul of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation,” the lawmakers added.

Last August, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo filed a similar bill seeking to grant the President power to privatize any or all units of PhilHealth.

The bill gives the President the power to revamp and reorganize the PhilHealth leadership in a move to privatize any or all segments of the agency “to make them more effective and innovative to address the social health insurance crisis.”