By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Friday welcomed the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) decision to lower the price of its COVID-19 test package by 50 percent, but insisted the state health insurance agency should peg it at a much lower price.
Drilon said PhilHealth should peg the price from P8,150 to P3,500—the amount it pays to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) that has already conducted 45 percent of COVID-19 tests in the country as of today.
The PhilHealth scaled down the price of its COVID-19 test package from P8,150 to P4,210 after Drilon vehemently questioned the overpriced package as he expressed concerns over the potential loss of about P8.3-billion worth of taxpayers’ money.
PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales has said the state-run corporation is now in the process of reviewing its current benefit packages and will publish the new and lower test rates next week as soon as the review is completed.
“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 in a statement.
“This is a victory for better governance and anticorruption 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 stressed.
The minority leader further said the issue should serve as a lesson to PhilHealth and the government in general: “We are watching you.”
Still, Drilon said Philhealth should consider bringing down the cost from P4,210 to P3,500, “or perhaps even lower.”
“I have heard that some institutions can do it at as low as P2,000,” he added.
It was Drilon who, during a Senate committee of the whole hearing on the government’s COVID-19 response, who earlier urged the PhilHealth to review its COVID-19 package which he perceived to be overpriced.
Drilon described the alleged overpricing as “a total waste and abuse of taxpayers’ money.”
The minority chief said he believes that the standard price of COVID-19 test in the country should be at P3,500, the amount of medical test fee offered by the PRC.
“Why would the PhilHealth have different prices for the same test? I am glad that PhilHealth listened to us,” he added.
“Upon a thorough review and a careful analysis of the market costs of the materials used for COVID-19 test, I believe the standard price of COVID-19 test in the country should be at P3,500. Why not use Red Cross rates as benchmark and reduce the rates for another P700,” Drilon stressed.
Drilon said the test kit for COVID-19 could be purchased for as low as $15 or P750.00.