By Manny Mogato
May 23, 2020 – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an immediate investigation into the reported overpriced virus test kits procured by the health department, his official spokesman said after the possible irregularity surfaced during a congressional hearing early this week.
During a senate virtual hearing, lawmakers discovered the state’s medical insurance agency was paying more than double the amount for a coronavirus test kits purchased by the health department than test kits bought by the private sector.
Harry Roque said the popular leader has expressed concern over the reports of overpricing and asked officials to explain immediately the discrepancy.
“Nais po niya ng kasagutan and investigation kasi hindi po nga niya maintindihan gaya ng buong sambayanan kung bakit ganoon kalaki ang discrepancy,” Roque said in a radio interview.
Roque said the president has tasked Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President to look into the anomalies at PhilHealth.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson urged Health Secretary Francisco Duque to look into the testing package of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
They said the PhilHealth was paying 8,150 pesos per test, double the price from the private sector, including the Philippine Red Cross, which was only charging 4,000 pesos per test.
PhilHealth head, retired general Ricardo Morales, said the 8,150 pesos price tag was for test kits acquired in March when there was still limited supply.
The lawmakers said the health department also bought the coronavirus testing machines for more than 4 million each while the private sector purchased the machines for nearly 2 million each.
The government acquired at least 1 million PCR test kits and 2 million rapid test kits from China.
The government plans to test up to 2 percent of the country’s 108 million population to determine the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines, targeting to increase testing capacity to 30,000 by the end of May.
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