Gov’t sets price cap for coronavirus RT-PCR tests

Bonz Magsambol

TESTING. A nurse undergoes swabbing of specimen for COVID-19 in Mandaluyong City on April 16, 2020

Darren Langit/Rappler

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says the price cap in private hubs is set from P4,500 to P5,000, and P3,800 for public testing centers

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have signed a joint administrative order, which set a price cap for the COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced this during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, November 25, noting that the price cap of testing in private testing hubs is set from P4,500 to P5,000, while public testing centers are only allowed to charge P3,800 per swab test.

Duque said that the price cap is already “inclusive of all costs associated with testing, including a faster turnaround time and other premium services.” (READ: FAST FACTS: What’s the difference between PCR, rapid antibody tests?)

The health secretary added that the price cap is “evidence-based,” ensuring a pricing that is “just, equitable, and sensitive to all stakeholders.”

Prior to this order, private hospitals in Metro Manila charged anywhere from P4,000 to P13,000 for RT-PCR testing. But there are some hospitals – including private hospitals – that provide the service for P1,750 to P2,000.

In Makati City, the local government has partnered with public and private testing centers to allow residents and business establishments to get swab tests for only P2,950 – even lower than the government’s price cap for public hospitals.

Asked if the price testing range would affect the coverage of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Duque said that the state health insurer should review the new order.

“As of today, PhilHealth is still following the 3-tier testing fee coverage. It’s at P3,409 at full coverage,” Duque said in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: PhilHealth releases new COVID-19 testing rate package)

Duque said that testing centers that will violate the price cap will face fines and a possibility of license revocation.

  • First offense: 15 days suspension and fine of P20,000
  • Second offense: 30 days suspension and fine of P30,000
  • Third offense: Revocation of license to operate

The move is in compliance with the November 4 order of President Rodrigo Duterte to impose a price cap on COVID-19 testing and test kits, following reports of exorbitantly-priced swab testing services.

The order will be effective 15 days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation. –

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.