Red Cross COVID-19 testing price may go down further – Gordon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — The Philippine Red Cross is working on further lowering the cost of its COVID-19 tests, its chairman, Senator Richard Gordon said while flagging exorbitant prices in the market.

PRC charges ₱3,500 to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth for every swab test, but the agency’s bill has ballooned to over ₱1 billion. PhilHealth refused to pay the entire amount, saying the price should have dropped to ₱3,409 due to more supply in the market.

In a media briefing on Friday, Gordon said he is asking the supplier from China to give the test kits at a lower cost, so the PRC could offer per real-time polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test cheaper than the rest.

Pagka binigyan tayo ng discount, ibababa ko iyan. Siguro bababa ‘yan ng mga hanggang ₱3,100 to ₱3,200 or ₱3,000,” Gordon said. “That's a commitment.”

[Translation: If we’re given a discount, I will bring that down, maybe up to ₱3,100 or ₱3,200 or even ₱3,000. That's a commitment.]

Meanwhile, Gordon questioned why some individuals are being charged ₱7,000 up to ₱20,000 for a coronavirus test. He cited reports received by the PRC, including one from a woman who paid ₱7,000 to get her test results within 24 hours – but still got it 12 hours later.

He said some testing laboratories even promise results within 10 hours for a ₱20,000 price tag.

“It has become business, big time,” Gordon said.

The country has 114 laboratories licensed to conduct RT-PCR tests considered as the gold standard in detecting coronavirus infection. These are composed of government-run and private facilities.

The Department of Health earlier proposed to President Rodrigo Duterte the issuance of an executive order to set a price ceiling for the swab tests in private hospitals and laboratories. The department is conducting a survey to determine the price range, while the Palace said Duterte may heed its recommendation.