Money-making scheme in PhilHealth’s failure to withhold taxes from cash advances for COVID-19

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Senate nCoV hearing

A possible money-making motive is seen after PhilHealth decided not to withhold taxes from the releases it made to health care institutions through the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism for COVID-19, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Thursday.

Lacson, in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, said he was wondering why PhilHealth opted to shell out over P150 million from its fund to settle obligations with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) when, in the first place, that should not have been shouldered by the state insurer had it withheld taxes from the IRM releases.

“Kinuha raw nila sa capital outlay, CO ang sabi, eh ‘di capital outlay. Puwede ba ‘yan? Ngayon as we speak, hindi far-fetched o ‘di malayo isipin natin na may under-the-table negotiations na nangyayari with these HCIs,” Lacson said.

“Kasi hindi na-withhold so sisingilin nila [ang mga ospital], saan pupunta ang sisingilin nila e bayad na ang BIR? Pag siningil ang ospital sabihin nila ‘di kayo re-release-an ibalik ninyo muna ang hindi namin na-withhold. Saan pupunta pa ‘yan? E linis na sa libro ng PhilHealth dahil nabayaran ang BIR. Ang tanong saan pupunta yan? Malamang sa hindi paghahati-hatian na naman ‘yan,” Lacson  added.

On the other hand, PhilHealth senior vice president Renato Limsiaco Jr. from the Fund Management Sector said they were not aware of the process.

“Hindi ho namin alam na magwi-withhold kami sa umpisa, your honor that’s the reason why na hindi tayo naka-withhold,”  Limsiaco told senators in a hearing.

Former PhilHealth anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith said Limsiaco was lying.

“During the previous calamities or fortuitous event, they all withhold taxes. He’s saying that he does not know but he knows because he’s a CPA and they have already past experiences, they always withhold,” the whistleblower said.

The IRM refers to PhilHealth’s cash advances to health care institutions (HCIs) affected by natural disasters, calamities, and other fortuitous events.

PhilHealth has so far released P14.9 billion through this mechanism but its implementation during the pandemic has been heavily questioned as dialysis centers and maternity clinics have apparently been prioritized, in terms of releases, compared to hospitals that are actually handling COVID-19 cases.

Several senators called for the suspension of the IRM amid overwhelming graft allegations against Philhealth officials and the state health insurer’s depleting actuarial life./Stacy Ang

 

 

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