PHILIPPINES: Bonuses of Philhealth officials shock members

Saturday 2 November 2013

Date: 26 October Type: News Source: Bulatlat Keywords: government, corruption

MANILA – Nida Enedero, 48, who sews for a living, was very furious upon hearing the news that top officials and employees of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth received P1.5 billion ($34.807 million) in bonuses and allowances last year.

“I have been living with goiter for 23 years. I could not use my PhilHealth card because I have to shell out money first for the laboratory tests before I can undergo an operation. Then I heard about the bonuses. It is really enraging,” Enedero told Bulatlat.com.

Enedero slammed the $34.807 million in bonuses of PhilHealth officials and employees. “I could not help but wonder where our contributions are being spent,” Enedero said. She has been religiously contributing to PhilHealth. Her husband too, who is sick, could not use his PhilHealth card.

“I was told that I need to undergo a CT scan before the operation. But the PhilHealth does not cover that,” Enedero said. She said a CT scan costs P6,000 ($139.23).

Kilos Bayan para sa Kalusugan (KBK), together with the Council for Health and Development (CHD), Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) and community health workers from different communities in Manila stormed the PhilHealth head office in Pasig City last Friday October 18 to slam what they called as “insensitive and deplorably immoral” bonuses.

Stealing peoples’ money

Albert Pascual, spokesman of KBK, said PhilHealth executives who got the biggest share of the bonuses are practically stealing the peoples’ money. He said they are indulging themselves with billions in bonuses while members are being squeezed of their hard-earned money.

“They granted themselves bonuses using the peoples’ money while their provision of services is very poor,” Pascual said in the protest action in front of PhilHealth head office.

Not only that, he said, the PhilHealth will also implement an increase, in 2014, in the contributions being exacted from members. The increase would be from P1,200 ($27.85) a year to P2,400 ($55.69) for individually paying members whose monthly income is P25,000 ($580.13) and below. Land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would also have to pay a $55.69 annual contribution from the current P900 ($20.88). For employed members, three percent would be deducted from their basic monthly pay, for the PhilHealth contributions. According to a Commission on Audit (COA) report, the $34.807 million in bonuses granted by PhilHealth officials consisted of:

Productivity incentive allowance – P272.006 million ($6.311 million) Anniversary bonus – P33.4 million ($775,048.27) Rice benefit – P106.27 million ($2.465 million) Educational allowance — P278.89 million ($6.471 million) Christmas package – P234.05 million ($5.431 million) Nominal gift – P10,000 ($232.05) Shuttle service assistance – P134.53 million ($3.121 million) Labor management relation gratuity – P156.92 million ($3.641 million) Birthday gift – P39 million ($904,996) Medical and mission critical allowance – P23.33 million ($541,373.54) Corporate transition and achievement premium/grocery allowance – 104.4 million ($2.422 million) Representation expenses – P32.5 million ($754,163.74) Rewards and other claims – P24.74 million ($574,092.64)

According to reports, members of the PhilHealth Board of Directors who received a bonus of P1.2 million ($27,846.05 ) each are: the chairman of the Board Health Secretary Enrique Ona, vice chairman Marlon Manuel, Civil Service Commission head Francisco Duque III, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Alexander Padilla (representative of employers), Alexander Ayco (labor sector representative), Jane Sta. Ana (representative of overseas workers), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President Robert Vergara, Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Juan Flavier (representative of health care providers), Francisco Lopez (self-employed sector), and SSS President Emilio de Quiros.

Pascual also slammed the giving of bonuses to private contractors of PhilHealth. “Ona said they hired private contractors because they do not have the capacity to run the corporation. These contractors have received P6,506,869 ($150,992.14) in bonuses and benefits, which include ‘special events gift’, project completion benefit, gratuity/Christmas package, sustenance gift/rice allowance, recognition gift, efficiency/productivity gift, alleviation gift, transportation assistance, medical and mission critical allowance.”

“These officials received millions of pesos in bonuses while PhilHealth members are waiting in long lines, and for at least six months to avail of their benefits. Benefits claims have to undergo an arduous process. Members receive a measly refund and worse, some members are not benefiting from PhilHealth,” Pascual said. He added that PhilHealth covers a mere 30 percent of the member’s hospital expenses. Moreover, PhilHealth reportedly owe some P2 billion ($46 million) in overdue payments to 900 private hospitals in 2012. “Obviously, PhilHealth’s Board of Directors approved self-serving policies that allowed the release of such huge amounts without considering the welfare of members,” Dr. Eleonor Jara, executive director of CHD said.

Return the people’s money

Rodalyn Posano, 47, a former overseas Filipino worker, said that during her 15 years of working abroad, she too, did not benefit from PhilHealth when she badly needed it. “Two years ago, while I was working abroad, my husband needed to undergo an operation. PhilHealth asked for too many papers, which my relatives here could not provide because I was outside of the country. If not for a medical mission, my husband wouldn’t be operated on.”

“And now you hear this kind of news. Many members are suffering from distress because they could not get medical treatment. It pains us even more when the agency that we thought could help us would not and worse, further adds to our suffering,” Posano said.

The health groups demanded for the return of the bonuses and allowances received by PhilHealth officials, as enumerated in the COA report, and use it to finance free health services and medicines in public hospitals.

“It is simple; put all the resources meant for PhilHealth to health services if this government really intends to serve the Filipino people. No need for a scheme that further squeezes the people,” said Dr. Julie Caguiat of Network Opposed to Privatization (NOP).

She said, “One does not need to be a member of PhilHealth to avail of free health services. A basic social service such as health should be provided for free by a government serving the people,” she said.

This is not different from the pork barrel issue, Cagiuat added. “As members and tax payers take from their hard-earned money to pay for their PhilHealth premiums, the agency’s officials, on the other hand, are pocketing the peoples’ money.”

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