Drilon wary of P8.3 billion potential overpricing of Philhealth COVID-19 test kit

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The Filipinos may lose over P8.3 billion due to overpricing in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) COVID-19 testing package, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

“I am alarmed by a potential overpricing of Philhealth’s testing packages and the overpricing potential loss may reach over P8.3 billion. Malaking dagok po ito sa atin kapag nangyari,” Drilon said in an interview with Teleradyo on Wednesday.

Drilon earlier questioned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday about the overpriced COVID-19 test packages being paid by Philhealth to hospitals and testing centers.

The government plans to test two million Filipinos for COVID-19, roughly 2 percent of the population, in the following months.

The minority leader emphasized the importance of mass testing in order to control the virus.

“Without testing, we will have a continuous lockdown because we are blinded. We do not know who are contaminated and if we do not know who are contaminated, we cannot track them, and if we cannot track them, we cannot treat them,” Drilon said in a separate interview with CNN.

Drilon, however, said the price tag for Philhealth’s COVID-19 test package is “unrealistic and overinflated.”

For testing two million Filipinos, Drilon said the Philhealth will pay around P16.3 billion, which will clearly result in a potential overpricing of P8.3 billion.

“Clearly, there is potential overpayment of P4,150.00 for every test paid by Philhealth. That is not right and that is unforgivable,” he added.

Drilon said the DOH and the Philhealth should explain this and revisit their COVID-19 test package as a lot more can be tested for COVId-19 if this overpricing and overpayment is addressed.

In general, the Philhealth will shoulder the cost for P8,150.00 per test, double the price from the private sector, including the Philippine Red Cross, which has conducted 45% of tests nationwide, can do the same test for only P4,000.00.

Duque tried to defend the price tag by saying that the price varies on whether the machine and test kits were donated or purchased by the hospitals.

But Drilon insisted that the price tag is still too high.

According to Drilon, the estimate cost of test kit from China is around P1,500.00 and the hospitals may add P2,000.00 as the overhead cost and a markup of P500.00 per test. All in all, the reasonable price tag for each COVID-19 test kit should be around P4,000.00. But the health insurance agency pays hospitals and testing centers P8,150.00 per test.

The University of the Philippines’ test kit costs P2,000.00

“That price tag of P8,150.00 is ridiculous. It reeks of corruption or negligence considering that the Philippine Red Cross and other private sectors have proven that they could conduct the test at half the price,” he said.

“The Philhealth will come back to us to explain this and I will tell them directly: this is a criminal act,” Drilon said.

Drilon said that it will take a toll on the health insurance’s depleting funds, which may result in Philhealth increasing its premium contribution yet again.

“Imagine that more P8 billion will be lost due to over pricing and over payment while our government economic managers are moving heaven and earth to look for funds for the country to survive this pandemic,” Drilon said./Stacy Ang

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