Villar hits hospitals asking for advance payment for COVID-19 swab tests

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2020 06:32 PM

MANILA - Sen. Cynthia Villar on Tuesday admonished hospitals that ask for advance payment from patients who want to be tested for COVID-19, saying testing centers should reimburse the cost from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

Villar said a government hospital charged their staff P4,000 as advance payment for a swab test.

"Sabi nila e kailangan mag-advance kayo tapos ire-reimburse na lang ng PhilHealth," Villar told the insurance firm's officials as she recounted the experience.

(They told me that we have to pay in advance and just reimburse the cost with PhilHealth.)

"Tama ba yun? Di ba 'pag PhilHealth member ka, punta ka doon, sila maga-advance tapos sisingilin nila sa inyo," she said.

(Is that right? Aren't all PhilHealth members entitled to be tested without paying anything as the hospital will be in charge of reimbursing from PhilHealth?)

Under the law, PhilHealth must shoulder all COVID-19 testing costs of its members.

The senator urged the state-run insurance agency to clarify the policy with the Department of Health to avoid discouraging Filipinos from going to hospitals to undergo COVID-19 swab tests.

"Ako na ang nagtanong, senador ng Pilipinas, pero ganiyan pa sagot sa akin. Paano pa kung mga mahihirap nating kababayan? Ganiyan din sasagot nila?" Villar said.

(That was their answer when I, a senator of the Philippines, asked them about it. What more if the poor will be the ones inquiring about it?)

"Hindi na 'yun mag-PCR test kasi walang pangbayad," she said.

(They might be discouraged to be tested for COVID-19 because it is not for free.)

PhilHealth should also ensure that there are no duplication in payment for hospitals that administer the COVID-19 swab test.

"Eh 'di ang nangyari doon nagbayad kami ng P4,000 tapos maniningil ulit sa inyo. Eh 'di doble na kita nila? Parang mali diba?" Villar said.

(What happened was we paid P4,000 and they might have collected payments from PhilHealth, too. So they earned double? That seems wrong, right?)

"This is a personal experience. Hindi ako nag-iimbento. Nangyari sa akin 'yan (I did not invent this. I really experienced that.)," she said.

PhilHealth will remind all its accredited COVID-19 testing centers to avoid charging patients and just reimburse claims with the government-owned insurance firm, said Israel Francis Pargas, Senior Vice President of the agency's Health Finance Policy Sector.

"We apologize... we will remind all our accredited facilities to follow our regulations," he said.

PhilHealth officials earlier said that the agency expects to spend some P28 million for COVID-19 testing, and another P22.5 billion for the reimbursement of coronavirus-related expenses of members.