ARTA to DOH: Hasten review of policies on expansion of SRA coverage to all active health workers during pandemic

08 September 2021 – The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) prodded the Department of Health (DOH) to hasten its review of its policies for the possible expansion of the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) coverage to include all health workers who served in hospitals and other health facilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, only health workers who were directly exposed to COVID-19 are entitled to the SRA.

But Secretary Jeremiah Belgica, ARTA Director General, said this is difficult to determine because anyone can get exposed to the deadly disease in hospitals and other health facilities.

“Huwag na po natin piliin ang mga bibigyan ng SRA dahil it is almost impossible to say who is a direct contact of a COVID-19 positive patient pagdating sa ospital. Minsan, pintuan palang ng ospital may mae-encounter ka na na positive pala sa COVID-19,” Belgica said.

The ARTA chief also said that the DOH should no longer compute the health workers’ SRA based on how many days they physically went to work and should instead grant them the maximum amount of P5,000 per month.

Administrative Order No. 36, Series of 2021 states that the grant of the COVID-19 SRA will be pro-rated based on the number of days that health workers physically went to work.

In the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Joint Circular No. 1, Series of 2021, it is said that public and private health workers may receive a monthly SRA not exceeding P5,000 per month.

Belgica said computing the amount that health workers should receive based on the number of days when they physically went to work may have been a factor that caused the delay in the disbursement of the SRA.

“Hirap na hirap na po ang health workers natin na walang tigil sa pagtatrabaho ngayong pandemya. Sana ay padaliin na po natin ang proseso sa pagkuha nila ng kanilang mga benepisyo dahil marapat lamang na matanggap nila iyon,” he said.

“We are in a volatile period in history. This is why we must continuously review our processes to ensure that we are delivering efficient service and implementing sound policies for the Filipino people,” he added.

On 6 September, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go released a statement with a similar sentiment, appealing to the DOH to study the possibility of expanding the provision of the SRA to all health workers who are serving in health facilities during the pandemic.

Go, who is also the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, reminded the health department to ensure that health workers are sufficiently supported as they are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19.

In previous Senate hearings, Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Michael Aguinaldo agreed to coordinate with the health department and liberalize the eligibility of those entitled to receive the SRA so more health workers will be covered.

However, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that while he supports the liberalization of the SRA, it would be better for lawmakers to pass a legislation on it to protect DOH from audit flags by COA.

This, after COA noted in its 2020 annual report on the DOH that it paid P214 million to “unqualified” recipients.

The Authority has conducted meetings and hearings with the DOH, DBM, and groups of health workers to discuss ways to resolve the issue.

These coordinations will help speed up the determination and release of the SRA for health workers because the procedural layers will be decreased.

In one of these meetings, the DOH and DBM said they are continuously finding sources and ways to provide for the needed benefits of health workers.

“Gaya po ng lagi kong sinasabi, ang red tape sa panahon ng pandemya ay nakamamatay. Kaya mas mabuti na pong magtulong-tulong tayo para tuluyan na nating matalo ang COVID-19 na patuloy na nagpapahirap sa mga kapwa natin Pilipino,” Belgica said.

The SRA is a benefit granted to health workers that is separate from their hazard pay and is equivalent to 25 percent of their monthly salary.

Thousands of health workers have yet to receive their SRAs amid supposed budget constraints. With this, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has repeatedly called on the concerned government agencies to give health workers their due.


ARTA Sec. Belgica: PhilHealth Payment Recovery Policy to fast track processing of hospital claims

17 September 2021 – Secretary Jeremiah Belgica, Director General of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), said the payment recovery policy of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will help speed up the processing of the unpaid COVID-19 claims of hospitals.

PhilHealth Circular No. 2021-0011 states that the PhilHealth Payment Recovery (PPR) policy will be used for the settlement of accounts of health care providers relative to fines, penalties, or overpayment of claims to ensure funds due to the state insurer will be accounted accordingly.

This, as PhilHealth was given more flexibility in making the Debit-Credit Payment Method (DCPM) available to all hospitals and not just those that are in COVID-19 hotspot areas.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) lifted the limitations on the coverage of the DCPM upon the recommendation of ARTA and PhilHealth.

The PPR policy will also help protect PhilHealth from losses as it explores the posibility of conducting its Medical Prepayment Review (MPR) post-audit to expedite the release of payment for the COVID-19 hospital claims.

This was another one of ARTA’s recommendations after it was presented with figures that show that only a fraction of the applications with PhilHealth contain wrong diagnoses.

“Maganda po iyan. Mapoprotektahan kayo nito from losses due to claims with erroneous diagnoses, among other reasons, at dahil diyan, mapapabilis din nito ang pagproseso niyo ng bayad para sa mga ospital,” Belgica said, addressing PhilHealth.

“Hindi nila masasabi na malulugi kayo kasi mababawi ninyo agad,” he added.

The payment recovery mechanism can be used when a medical post-audit reveals an upcasing or creeping of claims; when the payment of claims is credited to the wrong facility; when the payment of claims was made during the lapse or gap in accreditation validity or DOH license validity, the suspension or after the removal of a particular service, or during the withdrawal, non-renewal, suspension of accreditation, or closure of the health care provider; and when overpayments are made to the health care provider due to  administrative discrepancies.

Republic Act No. 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 authorizes PhilHealth to deduct the imposable fine from the pending benefit claims of health care providers.

PhilHealth’s circular also states that it can employ other means, such as but not limited to, sending demand letters and exhausting all legal avenues, including the filing of criminal charges, if warranted to recover the due amount.

If there are health care providers who have any contention of the policy or on the payment being recovered from them, the processing of benefit claims will continue and the PPR policy will not apply pending resolution of the issue by the PhilHealth Regional Office (PRO) Legal Services Unit.

PhilHealth has been under fire for its delayed disbursement of payment for the COVID-19 claims of both public and private hospitals. Recently, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte called on the state insurer to release the payments so the hospitals and other health facilities can continue their operations.

The Authority has had several meetings and hearings with PhilHealth, along with other government agencies, concerned groups, and private stakeholders.

ARTA has also formed a support group composed of officials from the Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to further assist PhilHealth with its issues.

It will also invite the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Streamlining of Government Services (OPASGP) to join the group and the Commission on Audit (COA) to serve as resource speakers.

The group will conduct more meetings in the coming days.


ARTA congratulates Pasig City for arresting building, electricity permit fixer

15 September 2021 – Secretary Jeremiah Belgica, Director General of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), congratulated the city government of Pasig City, led by Mayor Vico Sotto, for arresting a building and electricity permit fixer.

According to a report, the suspect was arrested in front of a convenience store in Barangay Sto. Tomas, Pasig City on 14 September 2021 after a complainant sought help from the police.

The fixer allegedly pretended to be an engineer and charged the complainant P328,000 for the fast processing of her building permit. However, he gave the victim a fake permit and asked for additional payment. Further investigation showed that the fixer was not authorized to process applications.

“These instances are testaments to the Pasig City government’s commitment to eradicating red tape in their jurisdiction. We would like to stress that the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) will support them in these initiatives in every step of the way,” Belgica said.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Sotto said they will also investigate if the fixer has cohorts within the Pasig City Hall after the suspect identified a local government employee who he is working with.

“Ongoing investigation—inaalam ng mga pulis kung may kasabwat siya sa City Hall. Pero peke naman ang pirma sa mga dokumento,” his post read.

“We’ve made big progress in cleaning up the Office of the Building Official, especially under Engineer Agustin. Isipin mo dati, may fixer na nandoon mismo sa tanggapan ng OBO,” he added.

Belgica was glad to see that Pasig City is also using the snake grab approach that consists of a three-step strategy: arresting fixers lurking outside, investigating government offices inside, and serving show-cause orders against the head of the office.

“We are very happy to know that Pasig City is also employing the use of our snake grab approach, that we at ARTA have been instituting as our official anti-fixer and anti-red tape strategy,” he said.

“This affirms our belief that whether these fixers are small-time criminals or big fishes inside government offices, they are still committing a crime and have to answer to the authorities,” he added.

Less than a month ago, the Pasig City government also arrested fixers selling “Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) ayuda” forms to unqualified beneficiaries.

Sotto warned the public to not engage with fixers and report them to authorities instead so they can slap them with charges.

“Tandaan din natin, walang fixer kung wala silang kliyente at walang scammer kung walang magpapaloko,” he said.

The ARTA chief echoed this statement and encouraged the public to file their complaints and reports before the agency.

“Corruption is a two-way street. Huwag na po kayong mag-engage sa mga fixers dahil madadamay lang po kayo kapag nahuli na namin sila at sasampahan na ng kaso,” he warned.

“Huwag po kayong matatakot magsumbong dahil tama po ang ginagawa niyo. Para tuluyan nating mapuksa ang red tape sa bansa, kakailanganin natin ang tulong ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno, lokal na pamahalaan, at maging ng taumbayan,” he added.