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COVID-19 'ANOMALY'

Drilon wants PhilHealth revamp amid 'overpriced' test kits mess


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday called for a reorganization of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) after he flagged the agency over its supposedly overpriced COVID-19 testing packages.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Drilon said there may have been groups within PhilHealth that bloated the prices of test kits.

Earlier, the senator pointed out that PhilHealth will shoulder the cost for P8,150 per test, but this is double the price in comparison with the ones acquired by the private sector, including the Philippine Red Cross, which can do the same test for only P3,500.

"Ang maliwanag lang ay merong grupo diyan na nagse-set ng packages, COVID-19 man o kahit ano. Siguro yan ang tingnan at i-reorganize dahil sa hindi mo maiwasang isipin na baka ito ay meron nang network sa iba't ibang ospital at service provider na binabayaran ng PhilHealth," Drilon said.

Also, Drilon said that while he does not want to conclude that there is in fact an intent to increase the prices for COVID-19 testing packages, there is "prima facie" evidence of irregularity.

"Kung may sapat na ebidensya later na makita, file-an ng kaso. Ngunit sa ngayon, habang ini-imbestiga natin, i-reorganize na," he said.

PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales had said the P8,150 price tag was only for test kits that were acquired in March when there was limited supply.

Morales also assured the public that PhilHealth will come up with an updated benefit package rate for people infected with COVID-19 by this week.

But Drilon argued that the PhilHealth already knew that their prices were high when they entered into a contract with Red Cross for COVID-19 testing.

"Assuming na [March] ganun ang kanilang presyo, e noong pumasok sila sa kontrata sa Red Cross, e 'di alam nila na masyadong mataas ang kanilang package," he said.

"Hindi ko lang alam ano ang nauna. Kung nauna ang Red Cross, edi lalong masama. Alam na nila na P3,500 ang pwede sa Red Cross, e bakit tinaasan pa nila ng P8,150?" he added.

Drilon said Morales and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs PhilHealth Board of Directors, could be made liable for their negligence over the supposedly overpriced COVID-19 test kits.

"Paano naman nangyari ito kung talagang tinitingnan nila nang husto itong mga bagay na involving public funds? They failed to exercise the duly diligence of good father of a family. Yan ang prinsipyo sa batas," he added.

PhilHealth has lowered the cost of its testing package for COVID-19 patients to P4,200 following allegations of overpricing. —LBG, GMA News