• PhilHealth all set to respond to COA findings

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    PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) President and Chief Executive Officer Alexander Padilla said the agency is ready to answer the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding the controversial excessive allowances and fat bonuses of its employees.
    “If I am not mistaken, we’re going to answer COA report by November 12. Actually, we’re just already preparing our answers and the needed documents before facing COA by next week,” said Padilla.

    He said what was released earlier was COA’s initial audit report and PhilHealth is expected to answer COA in a scheduled roundtable with officials from both agencies.

    Earlier, the state auditors criticized the PhilHealth management for paying its officials and employees P1.45 billion in various bonuses and allowances in 2012 and P1.245 billion in 2011 despite repeated warnings that these had no legal basis.

    But Padilla chided COA for the misinterpretation on the rules of giving bonuses and allowances to the agency’s officials and employees, saying that all the bonuses [performance-based] and other monetary perks should be approved by the Office of the President.

    “COA misinterpreted [this]. First of all, under our law that only the salary of the PhilHealth president should be approved by the Office of the President. All the others are approved by the board of directors [of PhilHealth]because we have a provision in our law under Section 16 (n) which states that the board are being authorized to fix the compensation of the entire corporation,” Padilla stressed.

    The PhilHealth, however, admitted that the agency’s employees also received allowances and benefits. He said items were already given not only for six years, but in the longer years.

    “These [benefits]were already provided for the past years, in which most of it came from the collective negotiating agreement [CAN] similar to private sector,” Padilla explained.

    Padilla said the 5,086 PhilHealth employees receive an average monthly salary of P20, 000, with no salary increase but only get 13th month pay.

    “Most of the bonuses and allowances are equally divided from the president, vice president all the way down to drivers and clerks,” Padilla clarified.

    He also denied that the PhilHealth board members have received P1.2 million in bonuses and allowances.

    “This is not true. We don’t have a bonus that was approved by the board for this year 2013. Assuming this [bonuses]will be approved only four members of the board which came from the private sector are being entitled to such bonuses and allowances,” Padilla further explained.

    “The P1.4 billion also went to the operating expenses. This literally goes to the employees,” he said.

    Padilla also said that the agency is expecting benefit payouts for 2013 to reach P62 billion, citing the increase in benefits as well as the expanding population coverage.

    He noted that over 2, 400 indigent and underprivileged families have received free healthcare benefits under the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, a subsidy from the national government, which aims to expand accessible healthcare services to poor communities.

    In 2013, the agency received P12-billion subsidy from the national government.
    “For this year alone, more than 5.2 million poor families nationwide have benefitted the free healthcare service,” Padilla said.

    For 2014, the national government has earmarked PP35.3 billion for the 14. 7 million families, Padilla said.

    “These [budgets]all go to the benefit of the people, not reserves for the PhilHealth employees,” Padilla explained.

    The agency also said that the premium adjustment for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is appropriate and has been decided upon with the best interest of OFWs and their families.

    The move, which is contained in its Circular 25, s-2013, adjusts the contribution rate from P1,200 to 2,400 annually starting January next year to rationalize its contribution structure with the rest of members from different categories. This means that PhilHealth members will have to pay P1,200 more on annual contributions starting next year.

    Last year, the state-run health insurance agency has also implemented a 200-percent increase in premiums of individually paying members from P1,200 to P1,800—a P600 increase a year, or P50 increase a month.

    The PhilHealth law provides that there shall be no contribution rate that is lower than those being paid for indigent members, which is now pegged at P2,400.

    The agency has also pegged the contribution for its informal sector members at P2,400 for those earning below P25,000 per month. For those with monthly income of above P25,000, the rate is at P3,600.

    PhilHealth further explained that the move has been openly discussed for years now with key stakeholders, especially migrant worker groups.

    Neil A. Alcober

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