Senators want release of IRM funds to hospitals suspended pending changes in PhilHealth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 13) - Senators are in favor of putting on hold the release of funds specifically set for addressing COVID-19 to hospitals, as they continue to investigate the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for alleged corruption.

Senate President Tito Sotto and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan on Wednesday said the interim reimbursement mechanism or IRM, which is distributed by PhilHealth, should be suspended.

"PhilHealth should suspend the IRM up until we can resolve the issues of favoritism, inequitable distribution and liquidation," said Hontiveros in a statement.

The IRM was a fund set for hospitals to receive in case of a "fortuitous" event such as COVID-19. However, controversy arose when data showed several hospitals who had low cases of the disease were given the fund first before hospitals with more infected patients

In a House panel hearing, PhilHealth officials revealed that it has provided P14.9 billion worth of IRMs but only liquidated P2.4 billion.

However, Renato Limsiaco, senior vice president for PhilHealth's fund management sector, also confirmed that the last time they released the IRM was on July 21.

Lawmakers have earlier pointed out that the distribution of the fund seemed to have prioritized some private hospitals while others continue to wait for their share, several months into the pandemic. Some senators also questioned the release of the funds to facilities who have yet to record a case, which they said defeated the purpose of the IRM.

"The entire system is a complete disaster and is a huge stumbling block for our hospitals to be able to effectively address the killer pandemic," said Pangilinan.

PhilHealth has repeatedly denied any favoritism towards institutions. Embattled PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales argued the hospitals who received the IRMs were located in high-COVID incidence areas.