After backlash, PhilHealth lowers COVID-19 testing rate to P4,210

After receiving criticism for its pricey COVID-19 testing package, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has scaled down its rate to P4,210 from P8,150.

In a text message to Rappler on Friday, May 22, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said that the P4,210 rate is be part of the new package that will be announced next week. 

He, however, maintained that “previous P8,150 is not overpriced but reflected testing capacity in March.”

This recent development came after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon grilled Morales for the supposed “overpriced” testing package at a Senate hearing on government's COVID-19 response on Wednesday, May 20. (READ: Drilon asks PhilHealth to review P8,150 coronavirus testing package)

Drilon asked Morales how PhilHealth came up with the P8,150 package when the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) only charged P3,500 for its real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

"Yesterday (Tuesday), Congresswoman Janette Garin said that a test kit only costs anywhere from P800 to P900. And, in fact, I have it here. I can prove to you that Sunsure test kit costs $15 dollars per kit or P750 only," Drilon said.

In the statement released on Friday morning, Morales said that, "as more COVID-19 medicines and medical supplies become available, the price is going to decline."

"This figure (P8,150 per test) was based on data collected before April 1, 2020, when there was very limited testing capacity in the country and one facility (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) processing the collected specimen," Morales said.

Morales also said that, “to date, no single COVID-19 test has been paid by PhilHealth, except those being performed by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).”

At present, PhilHealth shoulders the COVID-19 tests of Filipinos, with packages worth P2,710, P5,450, and P8,150, depending on how the test kits were procured by the accredited testing laboratories.

'Victory for anti-corruption drive'

Meanwhile, Drilon welcomed the decision of PhilHealth to review its testing package. 

"This is a victory for better governance and anti-corruption drive. Our triumph has proven that our collective voice is stronger than ever. It is critical to be more vigilant against corrupt practices during the time of a pandemic," Drilon said. 

 Drilon, however, said that PhilHealth should peg the testing package to P3,500.

"If COVID-19 tests could be done for as low as P3,500 as proven by Red Cross, which emerged as the lead testing center for COVID-19, then there is no justification for higher rates set by PhilHealth," Drilon said. 

Recover payments

Meanwhile, Drilon doubted claims made by Morales during Wednesday's Senate hearing that no actual payments were made to hospitals and testing centers.

Drilon cited a press release from the PhilHealth website, which stated that the state insurer health downloaded P30 billion last March to its accredited hospitals "to help them respond to the onslaught of COVID-19 in the country."

Drilon urged PhilHealth to recover overpayments to hospitals which were given advance payments for COVID-19 tests. – Rappler.com

 

 

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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