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DOH asked to publish COVID-19 test prices

SURIGAO del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel has proposed the need for the Department of Health (DOH) to publish on its website the exact prices of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) PCR tests being offered by the 191 licensed public and private laboratories across the country.

“We cannot understand why up to now the DOH’s Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau has not bothered to publish the cost of every COVID-19 PCR test in every licensed laboratory, for all to see. They should stop hiding the cost,” Pimentel said.

“We want absolute pricing transparency to protect consumers – to safeguard patients – and to help them identify, compare and choose the best provider that offers their desired level of value,” Pimentel, a COVID-19 survivor, said.

“Our sense, the DOH’s failure to promote pricing transparency from the start is the single biggest reason why costs remain elevated at the expense of consumers,” Pimentel said.

“We are convinced that greater pricing transparency will help bring down the cost of the test and discourage abuses,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said consumers have a right to ready access to the actual prices of COVID-19 tests and other healthcare services.

“Pricing transparency is important because consumers may have to rely on COVID-19 testing for a very long time, considering that it may take the government three years to vaccinate 60 percent of the national population against the virus,” Pimentel said. “Besides, it is not clear yet how long vaccinated individuals will enjoy protection against COVID-19,” Pimentel pointed out.

Pimentel also urged DOH to require all licensed laboratories to prominently display on their premises and publish only one price for their COVID-19 tests to discourage hidden charges, including sudden extra charges for so-called express results.

Meanwhile, Pimentel said he has been receiving reports that several private hospitals have been collecting specimens from patients, and then sending the samples to public laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

“We don’t mind this because we have a public health crisis. But these private hospitals should not turn around and then charge patients excessively if they are piggybacking on low-cost public laboratories,” Pimentel said.