QUEZON City Rep. Alfred Vargas on Wednesday criticized Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) for failing to settle its P1-billion debt with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which it promised to pay on Monday, October 26.
Vargas said Philhealth’s failure to fulfill its promise could worsen the public’s disillusionment with the state-run health insurer.
“This is shameful behavior that stains the government’s reputation. PhilHealth has a lot of explaining to do over this mess. Nangako pa, nagpa-statement pa, sa huli hindi rin naman pala tutuparin,” Vargas said.
Philhealth vowed last week to pay its overdue balance to PRC after the Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a legal opinion upholding the legality of their agreement for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) testing.
Sen. Richard Gordon, PRC’s chairman, said the organization has been forced to cancel a flight scheduled to China on Tuesday, October 27, to procure COVID-19 testing kits and equipment due to Philhealth’s failure to settle its debt.
PRC stopped conducting free COVID-19 tests for returning overseas Filipino workers and frontliners starting October 15 due to Philhealth’s failure to pay its outstanding balance of P930 million. Gordon said the debt has since ballooned to P1.1 billion.
Also affected by PRC’s halt of COVID-19 tests are individuals arriving in airports and seaports, as well as those covered by the Department of Health’s (DoH) expanded testing protocol.
Vargas said Philhealth’s continued refusal to settle its debt with PRC results in additional costs to both OFWs and the government.
“We already have close to 6,000 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) stranded, and more than a thousand expected arrivals daily. Sa bawat araw na stranded sila dahil sa quarantine, gumagastos din ang pamahalaan,” he said.
“Sa huli, ang mga kababayan natin ang talo. Sila ang nagdurusa,” Vargas added.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the government spends at least P9,000 for each OFW billeted at hotels for quarantine. Some 5,200 OFWs are currently stranded in hotels in Metro Manila while waiting for the results of their reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.