Health and Fitness

How Much Does It Cost to Get Treated For COVID-19?

Many fear medical expenses more than the virus itself, but thankfully, those worries have now been set aside.
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The short answer: Nothing.

Cabinet secretary Karlo Nograles has just announced the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will now shoulder the COVID-19 testing kit costs, quarantine costs, and isolation costs.

The cost of getting COVID-19 has long been a topic of concern, with many fearing the medical expenses more than the virus itself. Healthcare can be expensive in the Philippines, so this move from the government is a welcome relief to the general public.

“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," said Nograles.

Without PhilHealth’s assistance, the costs could have been extreme, as some insurance companies state in the fine print that their coverage does not extend to cases declared an “epidemic” or “pandemic” by the Department of Health (DOH). Patients could have had to pay around P28,000 out of their own pockets for a full 14-day quarantine at a private hospital. Professional fees, laboratory tests, and maintenance medication (there is still no vaccine for COVID-19) could have also cost P10,000 at minimum.

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Unlike places like the U.S. where citizens are being charged thousands of dollars just to get tested, the Philippines has removed the hefty cost barriers that have made people hesitate to get tested.

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Free Testing Kits

The Food and Drug Administration director general Eric Domingo previously stated to Esquire Philippines the COVID-19 testing kits are completely free, and “the government is shouldering the cost.”

The recently approved testing kits created by scientists at the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health cost less than P1,500 to produce each, said Domingo. Meanwhile, the testing kits purchased from the World Health Organization cost “about P20,000 to P30,000 per test.”

The FDA-approved UP testing kit still has to go through clearance and approval from the World Health Organization, after which it will be distributed to local hospitals.

Emergency Room Fee

Nograles stated PhilHealth will cover testing kits, quarantine costs, and isolation costs, but there was no mention regarding expenses prior to quarantine, such as emergency room visits. For those planning to get tested for COVID-19, which should be free, it is prudent to prepare for emergency room fees just in case.

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Emergency room fees can range from P1,000 to P2,500 at private hospitals, and are often free or minimal at public hospitals. (Only Level 2 and Level 3 hospitals are cleared to check for COVID-19 persons under investigation).

Opportunity Cost

While treatment is being covered by PhilHealth, the real cost to COVID-19 patients will come in the form of opportunity cost from being away from income-earning work, particularly if you have used up your paid sick leaves and/or vacation leaves.

If you’re regularly employed, you could forgo about 50 percent of your salary due to the 14-day quarantine, and perhaps even more if you still can’t return to the office once quarantine is over.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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