Philippines' biggest hospitals okay with COVID-19 test price cap

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 29) — Private hospitals across the Philippines are ready to implement a government directive that put a cap on prices of COVID-19 tests, the chief of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines said on Sunday.

Newly installed PHAPi president Jose Rene De Grano said the group, which counts the country's biggest medical institutions, recently met with officials of the Department of Health and Department of Trade and Industry.

The association has also reached a consensus to make swab tests or the COVID-19 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test accessible to a wider population.

Under a joint administrative order, the state regulators set a price ceiling: up to P5,000 for private laboratories and P3,800 for public testing facilities.

Before prices were regulated, private labs reportedly have been quoting up to P12,000 for swab tests, weakening efforts to contain the outbreak.

Medical centers had to pass on expenses for transport, PPEs, and masks if a third-party provides COVID-testing, PHAPi said.

"Let's say the price of the lab kit is ₱3,500, usually the cost [added by the] hospital is ₱1,000 to ₱1,500 so that's still within the price ceiling given by the Department of Health. The additional markup is because of the swabber, the PPEs, the mask, transportation," De Grano said in a Nov. 29 phone interview.

"They should now follow the administrative order because there's penalty for that."

Hospitals with their own lab testing capacities charge lower.

The group, however, said government hospitals should not be charging patients for COVID tests anymore especially given various donations from the private sector in the form of testing machines and kits.

De Grano takes the helm after former PHAPi president Rustico Jimenez passed away in October following a cardiac arrest.

News reports had said it was Jimenez who took Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to task after the state health insurer allegedly failed to pay 300 private hospitals on time, harming their finances.