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Senate upholds panel report urging raps for Duque, ex-PhilHealth chief Morales

The Senate on Monday adopted the Committee of the Whole's report on the alleged irregularities in PhilHealth, retaining the recommendation that its former chief Ricardo Morales and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should be sued.

The committee report, now officially a "Senate report," was a result of 28 hours worth of Senate hearings which delved into the alleged anomalous implementation of the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM), overpricing of IT equipment, manipulation of the state health insurer's financial statements, and snail-paced resolution of pending legal cases.

Aside from Duque and Morales, several other PhilHealth executives had been recommended to be slapped with criminal and administrative cases over supposed malversation of public funds and other graft and corrupt practices.

Duque has already denied his role in the "improper and illegal" implementation of the IRM or cash advances to health care institutions, emphasizing that he was a "non-voting" chairman of the PhilHealth Board.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said he is confident that those whom the panel implicated in the mess would be indicted.

The Department of Justice-led task force created by President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the alleged corruption in PhilHealth is expected to submit its report by September 14. The task force will finish its own hearings this week, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

A separate inquiry on alleged PhilHealth irregularities is also ongoing in the House of Representatives.

Adopted amendments

The amendments made in the committee report were mostly additional recommendations to ensure the prevention of corrupt activities in the state health insurer.

Among these were the recommendation for PhilHealth to "immediately report on an accurate, truthful, realistic, and data-based analysis and determination of the actuarial life of the corporation to enable it to judiciously allocate its funds and if necessary, to allow the government to effectively intervene towards the desired plan for the corporation."

PhilHealth was also urged to "maximize the utilization of Machine Learning Identification, Detection, and Analysis System (MIDAS) in order to effectively and efficiently validate voluminous claims data and detect overutilization, multiple claims and other fraudulent activities."

Further, the report urged the appropriate Senate committee to revisit the Universal Health Care law and the National Health Insurance Act, "with the end view of clarifying the nature and scope of payment mechanisms which may be implemented by PhilHealth."

The Congress was also encouraged to amend Section 18 of Republic Act No. 11223 or the “Universal Health Care Act” to add in a specific provision which mandates accredited health care institutions /health care providers to execute a sworn undertaking that the medical claims submitted to PhilHealth for reimbursement are certified true and correct.

The DOJ and the Ombudsman were likewise recommended to investigate and file appropriate charges against all those involved in the alleged overpricing of the COVID-19 test packages in PhilHealth.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology must clarify, through appropriate issuances, the process which agencies must follow in amending their previously-approved Information Systems Strategic Plan to prevent the overpricing of IT equipment.

Sotto said the Senate will be monitoring how these recommendations will be carried out by concerned government agencies.—AOL/RSJ, GMA News