Philippine Red Cross stops conducting COVID-19 tests chargeable to PhilHealth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 15) — The Philippine Red Cross, an organization that has largely helped conduct COVID-19 screening in the country, has halted coronavirus tests that are being charged to PhilHealth.

PRC on Thursday said the decision stemmed from the state insurance agency's failure to settle its increasing outstanding balance. As of Wednesday, PRC has stopped receiving for testing the specimen of returning overseas Filipino workers, those arriving in airports and seaports, those in mega swabbing facilities, and frontline health and government workers.

PRC said these services cannot resume until the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. pays its overdue balance of ₱930.99 million. PRC has conducted over one million COVID-19 tests, accounting for over 25% of coronavirus testing done in the country.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr said NTF Chairman Delfin Lorenzana, PhilHealth Chief Dante Gierran, and PRC Chief Richard Gordon are already discussing the issue. He is confident it will be "resolved immediately."

PhilHealth said it is “in close coordination with the PRC to thresh out issues” so the humanitarian organization can resume the government-funded testing. PhilHealth said it has paid PRC P1.6 billion for at least 433,263 tests as of September.

“In the meantime, [PhilHealth] is requesting that specimens from affected sectors be submitted to other accredited testing laboratories to be able to avail of PhilHealth benefits,” the state health insurer said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the PRC's decision will greatly hamper the country's testing efforts, but he said private and public laboratories can handle the tests while the issue is being ironed out.