Swab testing will soon be made affordable to more Filipinos after President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday signed an executive order placing a price cap on reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing and test kits for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Executive Order No. 118 directs the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to ensure accessibility and affordability of Covid-19 tests and test kits.
In signing the EO, Duterte recognized the priority of the state to ensure that the general public, especially those from low- and middle-income households, have “equitable access” to quality and affordable healthcare services such as Covid-19 tests.
“The DOH, in coordination with the DTI, is hereby directed to determine, formulate, and implement a price range for Covid-19 testing conducted by hospitals, laboratories, and other health establishments and facilities, included the test kits used in the conduct of said tests, subject to existing laws, rules, and regulations,” the EO read.
Both agencies must also ensure that the price range for Covid-19 testing and test kits is “just, equitable, and sensitive to all stakeholders.”
Compliance with the price range must form part of the standards and requirements for licensing and accreditation of hospitals, laboratories, and other health establishments and facilities as Covid-19 testing centers.
“The DOH shall release the appropriate issuances directing all hospitals, laboratories, and other health establishments, and facilities with existing accreditation to operate a Covid-19 diagnostic laboratory, to observe the aforesaid price range. Failure to comply therewith may be considered as a ground for the revocation of existing licenses or accreditation,” the EO read.
Under the EO, the DOH must institute measures to ensure that all accredited Covid-19 laboratories observe transparency in the pricing of tests, and ensure that the public is fully informed of the component costs of medical services and procedures relating to Covid-19.
The DOH and DTI must undertake continuous monitoring and review of the price and market supply of Covid-19 test kits and other basic medical items and supplies, and issue such price control measures and adjustments as may be necessary.
Necessary guidelines for the effective implementation of the order must also be formulated and issued by the DOH and DTI.
EO 118 takes effect immediately upon publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.
While many public hospitals and other healthcare facilities offer affordable Covid-19 testing ranging from PHP1,750 to PHP2,000, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he could not dispute that it would be “ideal” for the President to sign an EO.
Roque also expressed hope that once pool or batch testing is given the green light, it would further reduce the cost of testing.
Pool testing involves combining samples from several people and test them together instead of running them individually. (PNA)