Malacañang has proposed to coronavirus testing laboratories to establish a system that distinguishes services carried out by machines and testing kits donated to the facility from those that were procured.

09062020 SWABBING ROMERO 1024x683 - Palace wants COVID-19 testing labs to distinguish payment structure
(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Such system would help prevent any accounting problem for the coronavirus tests chargeable to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

Roque explained that PhilHealth’s testing rates depend on whether the test kits are procured by the testing facilities as well as donated to them.

“Without a doubt, Red Cross and all other facilities should have implemented a system by which to distinguish because that’s the payment structure of PhilHealth. You get paid depending on whether or not the machines or kits were donated or both,” he said over CNN Philippines.

“I believe that if they implemented a system early on it should not have been a problem, or it should not be a problem,” he added.

Roque made the remarks after the PhilHealth was unable to immediately pay its P930-million obligation for the coronavirus tests conducted by Red Cross. The humanitarian group recently decided to halt the government-funded testing until PhilHealth settles its debt. To ensure continued COVID testing, President Duterte has committed the government would pay PhilHealth’s debt to Red Cross as soon as possible.

Roque explained that there is a “price difference” between the COVID tests processed using donated test kits and those procured ones.

“Red Cross should not charge or PhilHealth should not pay the same rate for all PCR tests undertaken by whoever wants to claim from it including Red Cross. There is a price differential if the machine being used by the testing facility was donated and there is also a price differential if the testing kits being used were also donated,” he said.

“And of course, the Red Cross is a beneficiary of both donated machines and donated testing kits in addition to those that they have purchased, using also funds from the government that we have advanced,” he added.

Roque also expressed hope the Red Cross would resume the PhilHealth-funded testing following the President’s vow to pay the debt. He recognized Red Cross’ contribution to enhancing the country’s testing efforts amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Without Red Cross, Roque admitted that swab samples from returning Filipinos from abroad are now being sent to alternative laboratories for testing.

“It continues, although as I said, we cannot discount the fact that with 25% of our testing being done by the Philippine National Red Cross, it will be difficult or longer to meet our target of 10 million testing without the Red Cross,” he said.

Back in June, the PhiHealth modified the rates of its COVID testing package. If services for testing are procured and provided by the testing laboratory, the package costs P 3,409 while test kits that are donated to the testing laboratory amounts P2,077.

The test costs P901 if the test kits are donated to the testing laboratory and the cost of running the laboratory and RT-PCR machine for testing is included in the facility budget.

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