Villanueva: PhilHealth to pay for virus tests at workplaces

SENATOR Joel Villanueva on Wednesday stressed that employers should not think twice about sending their workers to COVID-19 testing because PhilHealth would be able to shoulder the cost.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, sought assurance from Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at the resumption of the Upper Chamber’s Committee of the Whole inquiry on Tuesday into the alleged anomalies hounding the state health insurance firm.

“Hindi po dapat mag alinlangan na magsagawa ng regular surveillance test ang mga employers,” Villanueva said in a statement. “May sapat na pondo ang PhilHealth para mag-monitor at mag-test para sa COVID sa mga lugar-paggawa kaya dapat ipatupad ito sa lalong madaling panahon.”

“COVID-19 surveillance in the workplace should be mandatory, and PhilHealth should pay for it,” he added.

At the hearing, Duque, who is also concurrent PhilHealth chairman, agreed with Villanueva, saying he was expecting the state health insurance firm to put together a program to cover the cost of testing workers.

The regular, random testing of workers forms part of Villanueva’s suggested action plan to the government in its management of the pandemic. Of the P22.5 billion PhilHealth expected to spend for COVID-19 testing this year, the state health insurance firm may have spent close to P7 billion based on DOH data that it has conducted two million tests, the lawmaker estimated. The average cost of COVID-19 test is P3,500.

With more tests for workers, authorities would be able to track closely the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, and give policymakers better data to assess the situation, Villanueva explained.