The COVID-19 pandemic poses a grave threat to one's health—and also to one's bank account. Receipts will show that it can cost you as much as PHP1,112,327.59 to get treated in a private hospital in Metro Manila.
Although, thanks to PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation), a patient will not be required to pay the entire amount. PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales announced on April 2, on their website, that they are shouldering "the full cost of treatment for all COVID-19 cases until 14 April 2020."
PhilHealth has committed to paying for everything on the patient's hospital bill, since the agency had "no existing case rate or package" at the time. However, in a press briefing on April 7, Morales modified that to say PhilHealth is setting a cap on the amount it will shoulder for COVID-19 patients, Persons Under Investigation, and Persons Under Monitoring.
According to a report by Business World, the "case rate packages" are to allow the agency to allocate its funds judiciously. These case rate packages vary according to the severity of the patient's pneumonia: PHP43,997 for mild, PHP143,267 for moderate, PHP333,519 for severe, and PHP786,384 for critical cases.
In reaction to this article, Mon Cualoping, assistant secretary and chief brand integrator at Presidential Communications, posted the same case rate packages, and underlined that the "coverage of expenses" for patients admitted in all PhilHealth-accredited hospitals will take effect starting on April 15, 2020.
PhilHealth covers that for all COVID-19 patients. That out of the way, how much would a patient personally need to shell out to cover the remaining amount?
PEP.ph asked an immediate family member of a recovered coronavirus patient. He agreed to enumerate the fees charged to them over the course of the treatment of their family member.
Persons suspected of having COVID-19 can get themselves tested for free, according to Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III. "Iyong pagsusuri ng specimen, iyong nose and throat swabs, libre po ito," he announced during a House hearing on March 11.
This was confirmed by the family member, who told PEP, "DOH took the first test for free." However, a report by CNN states that patients must take the test at least three times throughout their confinement. Aside from the confirmatory test, they are tested two more times before they are discharged from the hospital.
The standard cost of one test kit is PHP8,000. But in some hospitals, patients can now get themselves tested for as low as PHP1,500, thanks to the ongoing roll-out of low-cost testing kits made by scientists from the University of the Philippines.
Local governments in the Philippines offer ambulance service for free to residents of their municipalities. "We didn't pay for the ambulance! Free service care of our barangay," the relative of the recovered COVID-19 patient also said to PEP.ph. Meanwhile, those who prefer to be serviced by a private hospital's ambulance will need to pay at least PHP16,000 for a round trip.
PHP10,000 is for the ambulance conduction; PHP6,000 is for the protective equipment used to cover the interiors of the vehicle.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it usually takes two weeks for patients with mild COVID-19 cases to recover, and three to six weeks for those with severe or critical cases.
PEP.ph's source said their family member was diagnosed with a "normal case" of COVID-19, since he did not have any underlying condition. Still, he was placed in the hospital 18 days.
When he was discharged, he had a billing statement "over 50 pages long," totaling PHP1,112,327.59.
Here are the family's biggest expenses.
EMERGENCY ROOM STAY
The patient's eight-day stay in the emergency room (ER) cost PHP176,945.
This covered medication and use of machines—like cardiac monitors and oxymeters—that were charged at an hourly rate.
The patient was also billed PHP123,665 for the use of a ventilator from his second day in the ER up to the time he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital.
"They really did add up... Before we were wheeled into the ICU, our bill at the ER had hit PHP750,000," the family member said.
LABORATORY TESTS AND PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS
The patient took several laboratory tests from the day he was rushed to the ER, transferred to the ICU, and moved to a regular isolation room in the hospital.
The set included blood tests, X-rays, and COVID One test kits that all together came up to PHP178,820.
The biggest cost drivers were the pharmaceutical products, which amounted to PHP305,636.06.
These consisted of 83 Sodium Chloride syringes, 30 Fentanyl Citrate tablets, 17 Enoxaparin sodium syringes, and 16 Amlodipine Besylate tablets, among many others.
A room in the private hospital's ICU is priced at PHP6,300 per day, not including the cost of using the machines in it.
The length of stay varies, but in the case of the family PEP.ph spoke to, the patient used the room for four days, and was charged PHP25,200.
The regular isolation room, meanwhile, costs PHP6,100 per day.
He was confined there for five days until discharge, amounting to PHP30,500.
In sum, the patient was charged PHP55,700 for room and board.
PHILHEALTH MEDICAL ASSISTANCE FOR COVID-19 PATIENTS
Private hospitals do not usually accept payments by installment, except for credit-card payments that offer three- or six-months' installment programs.
"We wrote a promissory note lang, that’s why they let us leave," said the patient's immediate family. The note would also serve as supporting document for the hospital's request for PhilHealth to shoulder their patients' expenses.
The family member continued, "They will coordinate with PhilHealth first, and the promissory note was for them to have legal claim to compel me to come back and fill out forms or submit documents that PhilHealth might require.
"So technically, we aren’t paid yet, but I’m fairly confident we won’t pay for anything." The sum stands at PHP1,112,327.59 for this patient who is a "moderate case."
In a related development, ABS-CBN News reported on April 4 that one patient's bill had reached a high of P2.8M. PhilHealth president and CEO Morales said the agency is shouldering the full amount.
The understanding of the family PEP spoke to is that they, too, will have their expenses paid in full by PhilHealth because their family member fell sick before April 14, 2020. PhilHealth has openly committed to covering all expenses of all COVID-19 patients until April 14, 2020. Beyond that, for a moderate case of COVID-19, prepare PHP1M, at least.
* This story originally appeared on Pep.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.
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