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Duterte alarmed over 'overpriced' test kits 

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President Rodrigo Duterte was alarmed over the alleged overpricing of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (Philhealth) coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing package.

In a radio interview, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that Duterte was “alarmed” over the allegedly overpriced test kits being paid by PhilHealth to hospitals and testing centers.

“Bibigyan ko po ng kumpirmasyon na nababahala ang Presidente lalung-lalo doon sa pagkakaiba ng presyo ng testing kit (I’m confirming that the President is alarmed over the difference in prices of testing kits),” Roque said. “So nais po niya ng kasagutan and an investigation (So he wants an explanation and an investigation).”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in a Senate hearing held Tuesday, raised the concern that the country might lose over PHP8.3 billion due to alleged overpricing in PhilHealth’s testing package.

Drilon questioned PhilHealth’s payment of PHP8,150 per Covid-19 test, stressing that it is double the price of PHP4,000 per test being done by the Philippine Red Cross.

Drilon also noted that PhilHealth’s cost estimate is more expensive than the PHP1,500 price tag for each Covid-19 test kit in China.

Roque said Duterte could not also understand why the price of test kits that PhilHealth has to pay need to be costly.

“Hindi po nga niya maintindihan gaya ng buong sambayanan kung bakit ganoon kalaki ang discrepancy (He, like the public, could not understand why the discrepancy has to be that huge),” he said.

Drilon warned that there would be a potential overpricing of PHP8.3 billion, should PhilHealth pay around PHP16.3 billion for the Covid-19 testing of two million Filipinos.

PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales, in a statement read by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Friday, said the PHP8,150 per test was “based on data collected before April 1, 2020, when there was very limited testing capacity.”

“To date, no single Covid-19 test has been paid by PhilHealth, except those being performed by the Philippine Red Cross,” Panelo, citing Morales’ statement, said during his commentary show aired Friday on state-run PTV-4.

Morales said the state-run corporation will soon release a new package rate for Covid-19 patients by next week.

“And as more Covid-19 related medicines and medical supplies become more available, the price of testing is going to decline,” Panelo said, quoting Morales. 

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