HomeNewsPhilippine Catholic bishops hit proposal to abolish PhilHealth

Philippine Catholic bishops hit proposal to abolish PhilHealth

The bishops said what the government must abolish is the “culture of impunity” and “the culture of indifference”

Several Catholic bishops in the Philippines have expressed their opposition to proposals to abolish the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., or PhilHealth, amid allegations of corruption.

The bishops said what the government must abolish is the “culture of impunity” and “the culture of indifference” that allegedly reign in many of the country’s public offices.

On September 28, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would ask Congress to enact a law that will abolish and replace the existing state health insurer if the irregularities continue.

At least 40 PhilHealth officials are currently under investigation over allegations of pocketing US$308.5 million of the agency’s funds.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, head of Caritas Philippines, said the government must carefully address the problems of the state insurer.

“We are talking of billions of peso of taxpayers’ money and the welfare of PhilHealth’s supposed beneficiaries – the poor,” he told LiCAS.news.

He said terminating the agency would not resolve the issue “if the culture of indifference will remain” in many government offices.

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“Authorities may do a total revamp at all levels of management in PhilHealth but they must ensure that the money that was lost will be given back to the people,” he said.

Bishop Pedro Arigo, retired prelate of Puerto Prinsesa, said the problem is not the agency but “the people in high positions who are corrupt probably in complicity with the higher or highest ups.”

“Prosecute them to the full extent of the law and if guilty punish them and sequester their possessions and put their pictures in public billboards,” said the prelate.

Bishop Arigo said corruption goes “unabated because the corrupt get away with it.”

In 2019, the National Bureau of Investigation filed anti-graft complaints before the Justice department against 21 PhilHealth officials in connection with alleged “ghost dialysis treatments.”

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of Manila, said the problem with PhilHealth “is not so much the laws but the people implementing them.”

“There should be accountability and the offenders should be held accountable. There should not be favoritism,” he said.

PhilHealth was created in 1995 to implement universal health coverage in the Philippines. It is a tax-exempt, government-owned and controlled corporation and is attached to the Department of Health.

Its stated goal is to “ensure a sustainable national health insurance program for all.”

In 2010, it claimed to have achieved “universal” coverage at 86 percent of the population, although the 2008 National Demographic Health Survey showed that only 38 percent of respondents were aware of at least one household member being enrolled in PhilHealth.

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