(PNA File Photo)

Malacañang is pushing the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to expand its COVID-19 Home Isolation Benefit Packages (CHIBP) to include free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said PhilHealth currently covers free testing but only among patients who are symptomatic and are currently confined in public or private hospitals.

“We’re also pushing PhilHealth to increase the packages for home treatment. Those who are treating themselves at home can also be covered by PhilHealth. The PhilHealth package will also include RT-PCR,” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.

RT-PCR testing is considered the gold standard in detecting the virus that causes Covid-19.

Currently, the CHIBP is available to patients who passed both clinical and social criteria in surge areas declared by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Services under the package include home consultations for a minimum of 10 days, 24/7 daily monitoring of patients through teleconsultation, and provision of a home isolation kit which contains: 1L 70 percent alcohol, five pieces face mask, 1 thermometer, 1 pulse oximeter, drugs and medicines (18 pieces Paracetamol, 12 pieces Lagundi tablets or equivalent, six sachets oral rehydration salts, 10 pieces Ascorbic Acid, 10 pieces Vitamin D and zinc), and a consent form.

CHIBP providers may refer patients to higher-level facilities should they experience deterioration during home isolation. However, if the patient expires during home isolation, the facility can still file a claim.

Senatorial aspirant and Sorsogon Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero earlier called on the Department of Health (DOH) to make RT-PCR testing more affordable and accessible, if not free to encourage the public to get tested and control the spread of Covid-19.

Last Nov. 4, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 118, mandating the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry to determine and implement a price range for RT-PCR testing.

Currently, the price cap for RT-PCR tests ranges from around PHP1,000 to PHP3,000.

Previously, the price cap for RT-PCR tests is PHP3,800 for public laboratories/hospitals and PHP4,500 to PHP5,000 for private laboratories, all costs included.

Meanwhile, the DOH has set at PHP960 the price cap for rapid antigen testing. (PNA)