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Settle debt with PRC, PhilHealth pressed

A Metro Manila solon is urging the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to pay as soon as possible its P1 billion debt to the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 testing.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said PhilHealth should honor its agreement with the Red Cross.

The PRC earlier said it will stop conducting its tests until they are paid the P1 billion balance incurred by PhilHealth as of October 6.

“This is a huge blow to our country’s testing capacity and it is all because of the government agency’s failure to honor the contract,” Vargas said.

He added that with the Red Cross no longer conducting COVID-19 tests charged to PhilHealth, returning OFWs and government frontliners will have no choice but to pay for RT-PCR tests with other accredited testing centers.

“Let’s not burden them with the cost of testing. PhilHealth, please pay up,” Vargas, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said.

Vargas said PhilHealth’s failure to settle its growing outstanding balance might also affect other programs of the Red Cross, including disaster response.

“Like any other organization, Red Cross needs the funds for its many services and programs. These could be compromised by PhilHealth’s failure to settle its obligations,” he said.

PRC said it will only complete the testing of specimens of returning overseas Filipino workers, those arriving in airports and seaports, those in mega swabbing facilities, and frontline healthcare and government workers submitted until Thursday evening.

As of October 13, it has billed PhilHealth P1,014,975,500, but P930,993,000 remains unpaid, with the latter’s last payment being made on Sept. 8.

The COVID-19 test fee of P3,500 is chargeable to PhilHealth, which should have been paid through a P100 million revolving fund that PhilHealth has failed to replenish.

Vargas said that the country cannot afford to have PRC stop its testing operations as it would hamper testing capability.

He added that the country’s gains in fighting the pandemic could be wiped out in an instant “if one of our most proven partners in the key area of testing called it quits.”

“We are already finally flattening the curve. Instead of losing partners, we should be much more aggressive in adding to our testing capability,” Vargas said.

Even as the issues with PRC are being resolved, the solon called on PhilHealth to partner with more hospitals for COVID-19 testing around the country to encourage more Filipinos to be tested for the virus.