Health facility asked to explain overpriced COVID-19 tests

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — The Department of Health has found one testing facility violating the mandated price cap on COVID-19 tests, spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday.

She said the facility was asked to explain, adding once the response is submitted, the DOH will deliberate if the testing laboratory should be sanctioned. Vergeire, however, did not identify if the facility is privately-owned or a public laboratory or hospital.

"Tayo ay nagpadala na ng ating letter for them to explain, that is the initial thing we do. Hihintayin natin ano ang response nila, kung ang sagot nila — if it's valid or not or if they should be penalized," she said in a virtual media forum.

[Translation: We sent a letter asking them to explain. We will wait for their response, if it is valid or if they should be penalized.]

The price range for swab tests in private hospitals and laboratories is set at ₱4,500 to ₱5,000. Public facilities are only allowed to charge ₱3,800. Based on the order issued by the DOH and Trade Department in November, hospitals and laboratories found violating the cap will face fines of up to ₱30,000 and license suspension of up to a month. Their license will be revoked on their third violation.

Vergeire also agreed to the suggestion of Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel for the DOH to publish the official test prices set by laboratories and hospitals to ensure "absolute pricing transparency."

She said the department is set to issue an order mandating these facilities to post prices either through their websites, tarpaulins, or leaflets. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque added that laboratories should also post if they will require additional fees to receive certification.