DOH, DTI sign JAO on RT-PCR testing

Joint Press Release | 26 November 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on 24 November 2020 signed the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) for setting the price range for Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Reaction (RT-PCR) Testing for COVID-19. The JAO is pursuant to the Executive Order No. 118 of President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte ordering the agencies to implement a price range for COVID-19 testing.

During the DOH Media Forum on November 25, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque emphasized that this price range will promote quality, equitable access and affordability to COVID-19 testing.

“With this Joint Administrative Order, the government seeks to strike a balance of equity, access, and consumer’s choice. In determining the price ranges, we strived to ensure that they are just, equitable, and sensitive to all stakeholders,” Sec. Duque said.

For his part, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez stressed the importance of regulating the testing prices as the country resumes economic activity.

“We have been seeing signs of recovery. And with the increased testing capacity of our country, the demand for testing has also increased. This policy is an opportunity for the government to regulate the prices of testing to make it more affordable and accessible to all Filipinos," said Sec. Lopez.

According to DOH, public and private licensed COVID-19 testing laboratories were surveyed to determine the price range. Factors such as geographic location, ownership, brand, type of test and extraction machine, facility set-up, and turn-around time were also considered. The JAO also underwent a series of consultations and negotiations, stakeholder reviews, and technical deliberation before coming up with the said guidelines.

Moreover, upon effectivity of the JAO, prices will be made transparent and readily-available for the public to access, and will be subject to monthly monitoring to ensure that it remains fair amidst current developments.

When asked why the government imposed a price range instead of a price cap, Sec. Duque stressed that the President’s EO, DOH and DTI were directed to determine and implement a price range for COVID-19 testing. He further added that in coming up with the price range, implementing agencies have to balance equity with access, such that laboratories that are overcharging will lower their prices without going out of business. Provided that the quality of service is maintained, laboratories may charge patients below the reference price.

 

While the goal of the JAO is to protect Filipinos by making COVID-19 testing accessible, the Secretary stressed that observance of minimum public health standards set to minimize or prevent viral  transmission remains critical.

“While the objective of this endeavor is to make COVID-19 testing accessible and affordable to all, I would like to underscore that we need to remain vigilant -- strictly adhering to our minimum public health standards of mask wearing, hand hygiene, and physical distancing. Ito po ay upang maprotektahan hindi lang ating mga sarili, kung hindi, lalung lalo na ang mga mahal natin sa buhay. Kasabay ng pagpatupad ng price range, ang ating pagiging BIDA Solusyon ang pinakamagandang regalo ng kalusugan, kaligtasan, at kinabukasan para sa lahat,” the Health Chief emphasized.

Further, the Trade Secretary reiterated the government’s call to strictly follow the 7 Commandments of Minimum Health Standards as the country gradually reopens the economy.

“The health and safety of Filipinos remain our top priority, even as we gradually reopen the economy. As emphasized by DOH Sec. Duque, we need to remain vigilant and continue to adhere to the minimum health protocols. This will not only ensure the safety of our countrymen, but also secure their jobs and sources of income," Sec. Lopez said.

The JAO only covers the price range for plate-based RT-PCR testing. Supplemental guidelines on per item costing and price range of test kits and other testing modalities such as cartridge-based RT-PCR tests, and antigen tests, among others, will also be issued separately.