MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will shoulder the costs of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing that could be incurred by individuals seeking treatment of the illness, a Malacañang official announced Wednesday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said this is on top of Philhealth’s coverage for quarantine and isolation costs.
Nograles added the move is part of government efforts to address public concerns involving coronavirus.
“The President recognizes that everyone in the country is concerned about Covid-19 and the threat this poses to the health and lives of our loved ones, especially vulnerable individuals like senior citizens,” Nograles said in a statement.
“Given this, the last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses. Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families,” he added.
Nograles, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, also shared that Philhealth is now in the process of formalizing and operationalizing the new benefit.
He likewise assured that the government is working overtime to ensure that there would be an adequate number of testing kits “in order to quickly identify and isolate those infected with Covid-19.”
“We are fast-tracking the deployment of these kits so these can be used at the soonest possible time. Per Dr. Destura of Manila Healthtek, the rapid diagnostic test kit for Covid-19 is set for field validation study, and that UP PGH and the National Institute for Health have agreed to support the study,” he said.
Some lawmakers earlier called on the government to immediately mass-produce the test kits developed by local scientists to accommodate the growing number of people suspected to have contracted the virus.
The test kits were developed by local scientists at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UP-NIH) through funding provided by the Department of Science and Technology.
Its use has been greenlighted by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.
Nograles said local experts just need to conduct validation of 500 tests for coronavirus for the clinical sensitivity analysis as a pre-condition set by the FDA.
He said the NIH is hoping to secure approval for the field validation testing by Friday.
“Once it passes the clinical tests, the FDA will grant full access by all hospitals, as guided by the DOH,” he added.
The Philippines has so far reported 33 confirmed novel coronavirus cases.
As of March 11, the virus which originated from Wuhan City in China has infected 118,223 people, and killed 4,291 from 114 countries, according to World Health Organization coronavirus dashboard.
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