MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will cover the cost of the novel coronavirus test for individuals seeking treatment of the disease, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Wednesday.
This is on top of the state health insurance agency's coverage for quarantine and isolation costs, he said.
“The last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses. Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families," Nograles said in a statement.
“The President recognizes that everyone in the country is concerned about COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) and the threat this poses to the health and lives of our loved ones, especially vulnerable individuals like senior citizens,” Nograles added.
Nograles is a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The Palace official said the government was also working overtime to provide testing kits to areas affected by COVID-19.
"We are fast-tracking the deployment of these kits so these can be used at the soonest possible time. Per Dr. Destura of Manila Healthtek, the rapid diagnostic test kit for Covid-19 is set for field validation study, and that UP PGH and the National Institute for Health have agreed to support the study," Nograles said.
He added experts just need to validate 500 tests to meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"Once it passes the clinical tests, the FDA will grant full access by all hospitals, as guided by the DOH," he said.
The Philippines has recorded, as of Wednesday afternoon, 49 positive cases of COVID-19, from a new strain of coronavirus that started in Wuhan City, China.
PHILHEALTH COVID-19 PACKAGES
The state health insurance agency is also offering "isolation package" and "referral package" for its members and dependents with possible symptoms of the coronavirus.
Dr. Shirley Domingo, vice president of PhilHealth's Corporate Affairs Group, said patients placed under observation for suspected coronavirus or those under "isolation package" are entitled to P14,000.
Those referred to hospitals capable of performing quarantine procedures and manage infectious diseases or those under "referral package" are entitled to P4,000.
Meanwhile, patients exhibiting moderate pneumonia due to COVID-19 are entitled to P15,000 while those with severe pneumonia are entitled to P32,000, Domingo added.
Covered by the package are those admitted starting Jan. 31.
The No Balance Billing (NBB) policy, which enables the vulnerable sectors of the program such as the poor and the elderly to pay no more in excess of their PhilHealth coverage when confined in government facilities, will be applied to COVID-19 claims.
COVID-19 may be fatal for the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with underlying medical condition but 80 percent of cases globally showed a high chance of recovery "without needing special treatment," according to the World Health Organization.
WHO said COVID-19 symptoms include fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. The new respiratory disease has left 3,800 dead and affected 110,000 worldwide.
PhilHealth urged the public to exercise frequent handwashing and other hygienic measures.