IT cannot be denied that despite the current administration’s supposedly tough stance against corruption, the same has noticeably prevailed or even become more prevalent. The president’s famous threat ‘even just a whiff of corruption and you are out’, seems to have not worked effectively as a deterrent, considering the many public officials who are being exposed and fired for graft and corruption charges. From another angle, one may seem to doubt the sincerity of these dismissals because everyone knows that although the president has fired many of his men (and women), a lot of them were also reappointed or merely transferred.
Corruption at PHILHEALTH made the headlines these past few days. We all know that scams involving this government institution had long been heard and read about before. Philhealth had, for years been made the milking cow of some unscrupulous doctors and hospitals thru padded costs, exaggerated diagnoses, ghost claims, etc, which even led to a legislative inquiry in 2014. A few days ago, a Philhealth multimillion scam was once again brought to fore. This time involving a dialysis center in Quezon City. Based on accounts from some whistleblowers, Medwell Dialysis Center had been bilking Philhealth for years. Bogus claims were paid by Phihealth for dialysis which included treatments of deceased covered members who used to be their patients. This ‘ghost dialysis’ scheme allegedly ran since 2016. This has caused the President to order all high ranking officials of Philhealth to tender their courtesy resignations. He also directed appropriate agencies to investigate and prosecute everyone involved in the scam.
Right here in our province similar illegal practices are prevalent too according to my sources. I remember a friend of mine telling me that her husband was once confined in a private hospital for 2 days. Having heard of the bad billing practices some hosptials do, she meticulously reviewed their bill. Lo and behold, she found out that the hospital was claiming for more confinement days and for medications her husband never had. She complained and the billing department corrected the entries. Imagine if she did not ask and check. Or just think of the so many poor or unthinking patients who do not inquire and ask questions about their bill. Most patients, specially if covered by Philhealth and/or if told that they do not have to pay anything, no longer question their bill. Also imagine what other illegal schemes this hospital may possibly be running.
Another scam story told is about medical missions. Some doctors allegedly use patient information from the mission and report them to Philhealth to collect money. All doctors involved in the scam divide up their loot share and share alike. This allegation if true puts honest to goodness medical missions in bad light. It therefore behooves their organizers to take extra effort in safeguarding patient information which, under the law, should be treated with utmost confidentiality.
Solution in Sight?
It might take a long time for the government to get to the bottom of all these scams which drastically deplete Philhealth funds and rob patients/members who would have been benefitted otherwise. We certainly need to revamp Philhealth and go after all malefactors. A thorough review and revision of the institutions’ claim processes and procedures with a corresponding ‘check and balance system’ are in order. Not only should the government look into officials at the national level but also those local officials who may be directly in cahoots with erring doctors and hospitals. In the meantime, we all should help in at least minimizing the occurence of these scams, by being more fussy and meticulous in handling hosptial bills. We should read these bills carefully and point out the discrepancies, if there are any.