Drilon asks PhilHealth to review P8,150 coronavirus testing package

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, May 20, grilled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) President Ricardo Morales over the state insurer's P8,150 testing package for COVID-19.

During Wednesday's Senate hearing on the government's coronavirus response, Drilon asked Morales how PhilHealth came up with the P8,150 package when the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) only charges P3,500 for its real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

"How did PhilHealth arrive at a testing package of 8,150?" asked Drilon. 

Morales said the package was put together before the PRC came up with its own rate. 

Unsatisfied, Drilon pressed further, "Please answer my question, how much was attributed as the cost of the test kit when the package of P8,150 was formulated?"

Morales replied, "For RT-PCR testing, that's unbundled. Ibig sabihin ho ang cost ng testing ay charged to the laboratory which is P2,710 (This means that the cost of testing is charged to the laboratory which is P2,710)…. Doon ho sa (Of the) P8,150, the test kit is P5,540. And these are all components covered by PhilHealth."

But Drilon seemed unconvinced.

"Yesterday, 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. 

"How did PhilHealth come up with the P8,150 package?" Drilon asked again.

"Iba-iba po ang value ng PCR tests. Mayroon po doon na donated, mayroon din pong bundled. Iba-iba po 'yon," Morales replied. (PCR tests have different values. We have donated ones, there are also bundled ones. Those have different values.)

PhilHealth shoulders the coronavirus 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

Drilon told Morales that if the PhilHealth package is P8,150, hospitals and other service providers will then charge as such. 

"How do you justify as part of the package a test kit of P2,710 when it can be acquired for P750 pesos?" Drilon asked. 

Morales answered: "This is the data we collected from hospitals early in the pandemic when we didn't have enough data. And based from the data they provided we came up with the package."

Drilon then asked Morales to review PhilHealth's testing package since the Philippines is targeting to test 2 million of the entire population.

"You will now review this P8,150 because Mr Morales, if you talked about 2 million tests being sought...you have something like...my counting is like probably you'll be overspending or overreimbursing to about P12 billion for 2 million tests. This can't be justified," Drilon said. 

Aside from covering the COVID-19 testing cost, the PhilHealth also shoulders the treatment of Filipinos for COVID-19 based on case rate packages.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 13,221 coronavirus cases, with 842 deaths and 2,932 recoveries. – 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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