Tolentino flags DOH's failure to issue price cap on COVID-19 test kits

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2020 10:56 PM

MANILA - Sen. Francis Tolentino on Tuesday questioned the Department of Health's (DOH) failure to limit the cost of COVID-19 test kits while other medical supplies were subjected to a price freeze during the global pandemic.

The DOH issued a a circular that identified price ceilings for medical devices, medicine, alcohol and other personal protective equipment, except for COVID-19 test kits, Tolentino said during a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.

"Dito po tayo nagka windang-windang initially, hanggang ngayon... Iba't-iba 'yung singil na naranasan ng ating mga kababayan," he said as the chamber probed alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

"Hindi maliwanag yung mga pricing structure ng mga supplies na ito," he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his agency did not issue a price cap initially as most of the COVID-19 test kits in the country were donated.

But when pressed why the DOH has yet to issue a suggested retail price for rapid and swab tests 6 months after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, Duque said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) was in charge of the matter.

"We'll have to look into the records of the RITM," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier accused PhilHealth of overpricing COVID-19 testing packages, noting that the state-run insurance firm was charging about P2,000 while private firms bought the devices for only $15 (P700) per unit.

Aside from the overpricing of test kits, PhilHealth officials are also being investigated for the alleged overpricing of equipment for the agency's modernization program, and the disbursement of COVID-19 funds to dialysis centers and maternity clinics.