PhilHealth assures enough funds for PH COVID-19 response

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12)— The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation on Thursday assured it is ready to shoulder local hospitals’ testing and other medical costs associated with the coronavirus disease.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source, PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Ricardo Morales said the agency has enough funds to cover the government’s drive against the viral disease—including rolling out health packages for quarantined and coronavirus-positive patients.

“Yes, right now, PhilHealth is liquid. We are ready to cover the cost of this testing at the present rate and even 'pag nag-expand pa ito (even if this expands), (it is) ready,” Morales said.

Siyempre kapag epidemic na ito, siguro (if this escalates to an epidemic, perhaps) we're going to review then our regime to see if we can extend our resources. But at present, that's not a concern. PhilHealth is liquid enough,” he added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier revealed that suspected COVID patients won’t need to worry about paying for tests, as the state health insurer is ready to assist.

A coronavirus test kit costs around ₱8,000. A patient will have to undergo tests at least three times. Aside from the confirmatory test, a COVID-19 patient must be tested twice before being discharged from the hospital.

A cheaper test kit developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the rapid test kits, which cost over ₱1,000 have yet to be rolled out in local hospitals pending clearance and approval from the World Health Organization.

READ: Limited test kits led to possible ‘underreporting’ of coronavirus cases in PH – DOH

Apart from the testing fee, PhilHealth said Filipinos can also avail of a ₱14,000 health package should they get quarantined for the disease. The amount will provide ₱1,000 for each day of the isolation.

Meanwhile, coronavirus-positive patients can also seek a beneficiary package of up to ₱32,000— the amount usually provided for severe pneumonia cases.

The COVID-19, now considered by the WHO as a pandemic, has infected more than 126,000 people in 114 different countries including China, the epicenter of the disease’s outbreak. More than 4,600 persons were killed by the disease as of Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University's global tracker.

The Philippines has meanwhile recorded 49 confirmed cases, with several government officials going on self-quarantine amid the disease’s outbreak.