A senator on Friday asked the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to “immediately” settle unpaid claims of hundreds of hospitals so as not to jeopardize their operations amid the prolonged coronavirus pandemic.

The state health insurer should pay up as hospitals become “battlegrounds” amid surging coronavirus infections, Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares said in a statement.

Citing reports, Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said in Western Visayas alone, including Iloilo City, claims of hospitals and laboratories have reached over P800 million.

“They need what’s due to them, especially in this time when a number of them are overwhelmed with patients due to the recent surge of infections,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said in a statement.

Local leaders have already informed the national government of “the lack of hospital beds, dwindling medical staff, inadequate vaccine supply, shortage of medicines, and the slack in PhilHealth’s settling its dues,” the senator, who heads the Senate public services committee, warned.

PhilHealth implemented a debit-credit payment method in April which was supposed to fast-track the payment of hospital claims.

Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said the state health insurer should review the new system to determine whether it’s “fast and efficient enough.”

“Lives are on the line every day. The people should be able to rely on the promises of the state health insurer amid the health crisis,” she said.

The Health department on Wednesday flagged increasing coronavirus infections in Western Visayas. Coronavirus cases in the region have increased by 27%, it said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza