MANILA — Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) announced Thursday it has decided to defer payment of its almost P1 billion debt to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), saying it would wait for the legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on how to proceed with the settlement.
"PhilHealth, with the support of its Board of Directors, shall wait for DOJ’s opinion on the PhilHealth-PRC MOA for proper legal guidance on how to proceed with its payment to the PRC," the state health insurer said in a statement.
PhilHealth and PRC entered into a multi-million peso agreement in May this year where the latter was to conduct a massive COVID-19 testing program charging PhilHealth P3,500 for each test.
PhilHealth has so far paid P1.6 billion for over 400,000 tests conducted, but has incurred at least P930 million in unpaid tests after newly-installed PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran ordered a review of its partnership with the non-government organization.
PhilHealth, in the same statement Thursday, assured it has funds to pay its obligation.
"It is reiterating that it has the funds to pay its obligations to PRC. It is requesting all those who have been affected by this issue for more patience and understanding as PhilHealth moves forward with this partnership with the proper legal support, all in aid of ensuring that members’ funds are properly handled and disbursed," the statement read.
Due to the PhilHealth's unpaid bills, the has PRC stopped accepting specimens starting October 16, including from the following:
- • overseas Filipino workers
- • those arriving in seaports and airports
- • mega swabbing facilities through local governments
- • others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the health department
This has led to the DOH resorting to looking for alternatives, with big laboratories taking on more COVID-19 testing. There is also a 3-4-day delay in the release of COVID-19 test results for OFWs. And some 6,000 OFWs in various quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, as of Thursday, have been unable to go home to their respective provinces as they await a negative swab test result.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself, in a televised speech Monday, vowed to pay PRC, but said "it will take time."
"We will look for money," he said.