By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reminded the hospitals, laboratories, testing centers and other health facilities to follow the price cap for COVID-19 Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing imposed by the Department of Health and the Department of Trade Industry to ensure that it remains accessible to the public at a fair price.
“Pinapaalalahanan po natin ang mga hospital, laboratories, testing centers at iba pang health facilities na sumunod sa itinakdang price cap para sa RT-PCR testing at kung eligible po na ma-cover ng PhilHealth, dapat makapag-avail sila ng PhilHealth benefits,” said Go.
“Dapat tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayang naghihirap ngayon. Huwag hayaang may magsamantala sa kapwa. Dapat maayos, tutukan palagi at panatilihing abot-kaya ang testing sa bansa upang masiguro ang availability, affordability at accessibility nito,” he added.
Go emphasized the importance of ensuring the accessibility of testing to the people, citing its role as one of the major pillars of the government’s pandemic response and disease surveillance.
He noted that COVID-19 testing is a requirement for patients, close contacts, and returning overseas Filipinos, among others. Due to this, he said that testing has become a fundamental commodity and crucial component in the country’s recovery efforts.
“Dahil sa testing, nalalaman natin kung sino ang dapat i-isolate o nararapat bigyan ng karampatang medikal na atensyon. Importante ito dahil hindi natin nakikita ang kalaban,” stressed Go.
Go also reminded the public that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation also has its benefit package rates for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing. These testing benefits can be availed by close contacts of probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases in PhilHealth-accredited testing laboratories.
The senator then urged DOH and DTI to pursue violators and punish them in order to deter overpricing. He believes that this will be beneficial in protecting Filipinos from these predators.
“Those who would take advantage of others’ pain and profit from it must be punished. Hindi tama na pagkakitaan pa natin ang mga kababayan nating naghihirap dahil sa kasalukuyang pandemya. Huwag na nating dagdagan ang pasanin ng mga Pilipino,” said Go.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 118 in 2020, directing DOH and DTI to come up with and enforce a price range for RT-PCR testing. Pursuant thereto, DOH and DTI issued their Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 2020-01 which sets the guidelines for the implementation of the EO and determines mechanisms for the review of the price range, implementation, and monitoring of compliance.
Furthermore, the senator encouraged DOH and DTI to regularly review the price cap to ensure that it stays fair and reasonable.
As of September 2021, price caps for RT-PCR tests were set by the DOH at P2,800 for plate-based and P2,450 for GeneXpert in public laboratories; and P3,360 for plate-based and P2,940 for GeneXpert in private laboratories.
“Patuloy po nating i-monitor at pag-aralan ang presyo ng testing para masiguro na angkop ito sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon ng bansa at nananatiling makatarungan ang presyo nito,” he advised.
Finally, Go urged the government to institute measures to ensure that all accredited COVID-19 laboratories observe transparency in the pricing of diagnostic testing.
“Kailangan din po nating siguruhin na fully informed ang mga Pilipino sa component costs ng medical services at procedures kaugnay sa COVID-19. Dapat alam nila kung para saan ang binabayaran nila at saan napupunta ang pera nila,” he remarked. (ai/mtvn)