At least 500,000 OFWs lost PhilHealth coverage due to fake receipts scheme, ex-official bares

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Former PhilHealth auditing system specialist Ken Sarmiento. (SCREENSHOT: House of Representatives/ YouTube.)

At least 500,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) lost national health coverage due to a fraudulent scheme involving fake receipts bared by a former official of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) Wednesday.

Former PhilHealth auditing system specialist Ken Sarmiento said before a House probe on alleged anomalies in the agency that 545,291 OFWs lost PhilHealth coverage from 2015 to 2017—while he worked for the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency.

Sarmiento said this was because over P1.3 billion in OFW premiums were uncollected due to falsified receipts. He added the control numbers of the receipts were sourced from different parts of the Philippines, including Iligan, Batangas, and Pampanga.

“’Yung grupo na namemeke, nagre-recycle sila ng receipts officially issued before,” he said.

The scheme involved representatives of hiring agencies who pay OFWs PhilHealth premiums in bulk and “marketers” who sell fake PhilHealth receipts.

Sarmiento said that of the P2,400 paid by a migrant worker, the “marketer” who created the receipts took P900, while the rest went to the liaison officer of the recruitment agencies.

He added that as of Sept. 2018, they have confirmed 224 cases of fake receipts covering P17.4 million in paid OFW premiums.

Sarmiento filed 16 complaints against 48 agencies.

But he claimed that after he filed reports on these, he was removed from his post through the “collective effort” of then regional vice president Dennis Mas,  former COO John Basa, and other executive committee members Narisa Sugay and Gilda Salvacion Diaz.

Mas, who was at the hearing, however, claimed that Sarmiento was only reassigned.

The House public accounts panel and the good government and public accountability panel on Wednesday ended its hearings on the alleged corruption in PhilHealth.