Palace orders price caps on COVID-19 testing

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    PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday ordered the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry to set a price range for test kits and testing services for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    The President, in issuing Executive Order No. 118 yesterday, directed DOH and DTI to set the price caps on the test kits and services conducted by hospitals, laboratories, and other health facilities, and to come up with guidelines to ensure transparency in the pricing of the kits and services.

    The order facilities that would violate the price cap they will lose their license and accreditation.

    The DOH and the Department of Tourism have been calling for the imposition of a price cap following reports of exorbitant prices charged for COVID-19 kits and testing services.

    As this developed, President Duterte said the government is planning to make new testing technologies available to far-flung areas to help in efforts to detect, isolate, and treat persons with COVID-19.

    In his second Bayanihan 2 Report to Congress, the President said the part of the National Action Plan Phase II is to upgrade capabilities of accredited laboratories and develop at least one laboratory in every province, which will conduct the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

    This will ensure that testing is available, affordable and accessible to the public communities and enable the government to immediately identify and isolate those who are infected .

    The President said the DOH continues to provide technical assistance to laboratories applying for licenses to ensure an adequate number of COVID-19 testing centers, and meets with the manufacturer of GeneXpert cartridges to ensure a stable supply of testing kits in the country.

    There are at least 122 PCR laboratories and 35 GeneXpert laboratories accredited by DOH.

    Also in the report, Duterte said government has paid P1.8 billion worth of tests conducted by the Philippine Red Cross and hospitals, and chargeable to the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth).

    The President said as of October 9, P1.616 billion was paid to the Red Cross for more than 433,263 PhilHealth claims while P169.58 million was paid to different hospitals and institutions for more than 30,378 claims from 95 accredited hospitals and health facilities.

    PhilHealth owed Red Cross some P1.1 billion as of late last month. PhilHealth has so far paid P600 million.

    The debt forced Red Cross to stop tests it conducts for government and chargeable to PhilHealth. It resumed tests on October 27 after the first payment of P500 million.