Villanueva: PhilHealth has sufficient funds to cover workers’ COVID-19 testing
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Joel Villanueva encouraged employers to send their workers for COVID-19 testing as the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has “sufficient funds” to shoulder the costs.
The Senate Labor Committee chair sought assurance from Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the resumption of the Upper House’s Committee of the Whole inquiry on Tuesday regarding the alleged anomalies on PhilHealth funds.
“COVID-19 surveillance in the workplace should be mandatory, and PhilHealth should pay for it,” said Villanueva in a statement.
“Hindi po dapat mag alinlangan na magsagawa ng regular surveillance test ang mga employers. May sapat na pondo ang Philhealth para mag-monitor at mag-test para sa COVID-19 sa mga lugar-paggawa kaya dapat ipatupad ito sa lalong madaling panahon.”
(The employers shouldn’t think twice in implementing surveillance tests on their employees because PhilHealth has sufficient funds to monitor and test for COVID-19 on workplaces.)
Duque, who is also the concurrent PhilHealth chairman, agreed with Villanueva that the state insurance firm can put together a program that would cover the cost for the workers’ testing.
Villanueva said that with more testing on workers, authorities will be able to closely track the spread of the virus on workplaces and give policymakers better data to assess the situation.
Regular, random testing of workers is part of Villanueva’s suggested action plan to the government regarding the management of the pandemic.
Villanueva estimated that of the P22.5 billion PhilHealth is expected to spend for COVID-19 testing in 2020, the state insurance firm has spent close to P7 billion on two million tests, with each procedure costing P3,500, based on the Department of Health’s data.
The senator also called on Duque, who is the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force, to consider implementing epidemiological surveillance on offices where authorities seek out information from communities and areas where people usually gather.
Apart from the DOH, Villanueva also called on the Department of Labor and Employment to continue its efforts to ensure that offices comply with workers’ safety standards.
According to DOLE and the Department of Trade and Industry’s joint inspections on COVID-19 prevention, some 77% percent of its inspected workplaces from June 3 to July 31, 2020 have complied with their guidelines.
“Despite the relatively high compliance rate of establishments, workplace infections are still rising. This may mean that the guideline is not enough, or inspections being done do not capture the whole occupational safety and health situation in the country,” said Villanueva.
As of Wednesday, there are 173,774 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines.
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