Price cap for COVID-19 swab test pegged at P5,000 | Inquirer News
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Price cap for COVID-19 swab test pegged at P5,000

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 05:34 AM November 26, 2020

SAY AHHH! The health and trade departments have set the price of a swab test in private laboratories at P4,500 to P5,000. In public labs, a test will set back a patient by P3,500. At St. Luke’s Medical Center, a test costs P4,300. At Philippine Red Cross, it’s P4,000. —RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — The health and trade departments have issued an order limiting the price accredited laboratories can charge their patients for COVID-19 swab tests to help ensure equitable access. Ironically, the floor price arrived at by the government is much higher than existing rates in a number of laboratories.

Under the joint administrative order of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), private laboratories can only charge patients between P4,500 and P5,000, while the limit for public laboratories is P3,800.

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Just, equitable, sensitive

The order, signed on Tuesday, immediately takes effect upon publication in newspapers.

“With this joint administrative order, the government seeks to strike a balance of equity, access and consumers’ choice. In determining the price range, we strived to ensure that they are just, equitable and sensitive to all,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

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Noticeably, the floor price set for private laboratories is higher than the current rate some laboratories charge for the standard RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test. For example, St. Luke’s Medical Center charges P4,300 for each test, while the Philippine Red Cross rate is at P4,000.

In its existing package, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) can pay government laboratories up to P3,409 if all the services for testing were procured and provided by the laboratory.

Duque noted that the price range was arrived at following a market study and survey that took into account all testing inputs that included kits, transport medium and overhead costs. The floor price, he said, was based on the “median price” while the ceiling was based on the “75th percentile.”

While the joint administrative order has set a price floor for swab tests, Duque said this did not mean that laboratories currently charging much lower should increase their fees.

“They will have to keep their current pricing level. It’s not good that just because we have this price range they would suddenly increase their fees to the allowable ceiling. Whatever is the level of their testing fees, that should be maintained,” he said.

Though laboratories could still offer expedited processing of samples, Duque said the cost of this premium service shouldn’t exceed P5,000.

To ensure that the price range remains fair, Duque said the mechanism would be subjected to monthly monitoring.

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Penalties

The health chief warned that laboratories that fail to comply with the order will have their license to operate suspended for 15 days for the first violation and 30 days for the second. They will also be fined P20,000 and P30,000, respectively. A third violation would merit revocation of their license.

The order putting a limit on the price of swab tests comes two months after the DOH asked President Duterte to issue a directive regulating the market as it observed “the differential pricing across the different laboratories in the country.” PCR tests in public and private laboratories currently range from P1,500 to as much as P19,000.

On Wednesday, the DOH reported 1,202 additional coronavirus infections, raising the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 422,915.

Davao City had the most number of new infections, 137, followed by Quezon City (68), Batangas (59), Laguna (54) and Cavite (47).

The DOH said 183 more patients had recovered, pushing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 386,955. But the death toll rose to 8,215 with the deaths of 31 more patients.

The recoveries and deaths left the country with 27,745 active cases, of which 83.7 percent were mild, 8.2 percent asymptomatic, 0.27 percent moderate, 2.7 percent severe, and 5.1 percent critical.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 swab test price, DoH, DTI
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