Solon warns of ₱8-B potential loss with 'overpriced' PhilHealth COVID-19 test package

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20)— Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday warned that the government may stand to lose billions of pesos in the COVID-19 testing processes due to the supposed costly package shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

Drilon raised that PhilHealth may face a potential loss of over ₱8 billion as he once again questioned its "overpriced" coronavirus test package amounting to ₱8,150.

The lawmaker said that upon research, a reasonable price for a test kit should hover around ₱4,000. He noted that if the government aims to test two million Filipinos or about two percent of the the country's population— a target initially set by officials— then PhilHealth would have to pay a higher amount with the current package.

"They are reimbursing the hospitals for the same work and the same process, ₱8,150. In other words, if you look at the cost to the hospital and the service provider, the overpayment by Philhealth is ₱4,150 per test. We will test two percent of our population or roughly 2 million Filipinos. If you multiply 2 million by ₱4,150, which is the overprice, the potential loss is ₱8.3 billion to PHilHealth," Drilon told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"What I'm saying is, to test 2 million Filipinos, the government could achieve that with an expense of roughly ₱4 billion. There is a potential overprice of ₱8.3 billion," he added.

Drilon first floated the issue during Tuesday's Senate hearing on the government's COVID-19 response, where he urged the Health Department to conduct a review on PhilHealth's price tag for the testing package. The lawmaker noted that the COVID-19 testing services offered by the Philippine Red Cross is cheaper by half.

PhilHealth’s coverage for COVID-19 tests ranges from ₱2,710 to ₱8,150. Prices for the test package will depend on how the test kits were procured by the accredited laboratories, according to the state health insurer's website. The fee is cheaper if the test kit is donated to the facility.

RELATED: PhilHealth proposes cheaper COVID-19 test package

Health Secretary Francisco Duque, in response, told Drilon that he will ask for a review, and vowed to submit a report to Congress on the matter before the end of the week.

CNN Philippines is waiting for PhilHealth's reply to a request for further comment on the issue.

The country is aiming to test 1.5 to 2 percent of its almost 110 million population for COVID-19 infection, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who pointed out that other model nations like South Korea have the same expanded testing protocols.

Officials also expressed hope that the country can achieve the 30,000 daily COVID-19 testing capacity by the end of May, with more laboratories on the way.