Drilon calls out questionable items in Philhealth COVID-19 test package (from Senate of the Philippines Press Release):
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon found questionable expenses in the Philippine Health Insurance’s (Philhealth) COVID-19 testing packages, calling it a total “waste and abuse of taxpayers’ money.”
Drilon’s revelation prompted PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales to review the package.
“Whether it’s due to corruption or gross negligence, I do not know. But it is the duty of Mr. Morales to find out. To disburse so much funds is manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to Filipinos. It is against the law and unconscionable. We cannot let this pass,” Drilon said.
“This is not the first time we’ve heard of Philhealth’s incompetence. Remember the ghost patients and fake cataract surgeries? We cannot discount the possibility of fake COVID-19 tests,” he added.
Based on Philhealth Circular 2020-0010 issued last April 8, the Philhealth pays the package amount for all services rendered by the hospitals and testing laboratories.
According to Drilon, the package amounting to P8,150 includes the following services: screening at P509.06, diagnostic workup at P799.69, specimen collection at P947.12, specimen transport at P451.14, and PCR testing for P5,422.91.
Upon consultation with medical experts, however, Drilon revealed that the expenses being paid by Philhealth are “questionable because they are completely unnecessary.”
He cited, for instance, that the diagnostic workup costing P799.68 is especially questionable since it is a fact that the COVID-19 testing does not include a blood examination but only nasal swab.
“The diagnostic workup involves a thorough examination of the blood. Do we submit our blood samples when we are tested? No. We only submit to nasal swabbing,” he said.
Drilon then questioned the inclusion of diagnostic tests such as actic dehydrogenase (LDH), D-dimer, prothombin time, arterial blood gas(ABG) and blood culture in the costing.
“The Philhealth even pays for courier services. That’s ridiculous. Isn’t it that the most common practice is that the patient would go to the laboratory to have himself or herself tested? Why the need for a courier service then?” he asked.
The Philhealth also pays P5,442.91 for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)testing, which includes: test kit (P2,700), extraction kit (P850), staff time (P200), PPE (P549), other supplies (P649), and 10% overhead cost (P494).
Drilon also questioned the need for eight staff to conduct a single test, whose services will be paid by Philhealth.
“We also need to check the necessity of the supplies that that we are paying for,” he added.
Upon Drilon’s questioning during the Senate’s Committee on Whole hearing last Wednesday, Morales confirmed the figures, including the price of the test kit of P2,700.
Drilon said the test kit could be bought for as low as $15 or P750.00.
“These questionable items are the reason why the package is overinflated, which would adversely affect the health insurance agency’s fund life. The Philhealth should review it immediately and lower the price tag similar to their agreement with the Philippine Red Cross,” Drilon said.
The Philhealth pays Red Cross P3,500 for every test.