Red Cross offers prepaid COVID-19 tests

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    BY GERARD NAVAL and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    WITH its partnership with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) suspended, the Philippine Red Cross is now offering prepaid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing for arriving Filipinos from abroad.

    The introduction of the prepaid COVID-19 testing by Red Cross comes days after it suspended acceptance of swab specimens for those tests to be charged to PhilHealth, which it said owes it almost a billion in testing fees.

    On Monday night, President Duterte assured PhilHealth government will pay it.

    “Do not worry. We will pay. It will take time but we will pay. We’ll look for the money,” the President said during his regular televised address. He added Red Cross will be “paid in a short while.”

    Yesterday, his spokesman Harry Roque said the government is looking to settle at least half of the debt as soon as possible, with the remainder to be paid within a reasonable period.

    Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has expressed concern over the suspension of Red Cross testing for those to be paid by PhilHealth as Red Cross covers about 25 percent of tests being done on returning Filipinos and health workers, among others.

    Bello noted some 100,000 more overseas workers are expected to arrive towards the end of the year.

    “The problem about Red Cross not conducting the swabbing test, we are now faced with another stranding of our OFWs. Whereas before, we succeeded in bringing home or treating our OFWs at the rate of 1,000 to 3,000 a day. Now, we are talking of only about a maximum of 300 a day. So you can just imagine how many OFWs are now stranded in all the hotels in Metro Manila,” he said.

    Red Cross, in an advisory, said its laboratory services will remain accessible to Filipinos arriving from abroad.

    “All arriving passengers, especially OFWs and OFs (overseas Filipinos), can pre-book and prepay for their COVID-19 test directly with the PRC,” said the Red Cross.

    The cost is P3,581.75 per test broken down into P3,500 testing base fee, P71.75 payment online transaction fee, and P10 convenience fee.

    To avail of the prepaid services, those departing for the Philippines are advised to go to e-cif.redcross.org.ph, click e-CIF for Incoming Passengers, fill in the details, and click Pay for Swab button on the Success Screen.

    Payment can be made through PayMongo using debit/credit card, GCash, or GrabPay.

    They will then receive a payment confirmation email with a QR code in their email.

    Upon their arrival in the country, they will just have to approach Philippine Coast Guard swabbing booths, present their payment confirmation, QR code, and passport.

    After getting swabbed, they can go to their hotel/designated quarantine facility and just wait for their results within 24 to 36 hours.

    Arriving overseas Filipinos are among the sectors, whose COVID-19 swab tests are taken by the Philippine Coast Guard and are paid for by PhilHealth.

    The President, during his weekly public address, said governments all over the world have been struggling economically due to the pandemic and the Philippines is no different as it tries its best to “make both ends meet.”

    He said his administration is still looking for more money as well as a “way to present a solution to COA (Commission on Audit) (COA) and the (Department of) Budget” on how to pay PRC.