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Why Hospitals Price the Same COVID Test Differently

Operational costs are being factored in.
by Clara Rosales
Sep 23, 2020
Photo/s: United Nations COVID-19 Response via Unsplash

Here's to hoping you never have to take a COVID-19 test in your life, but it helps to know where you can get one just in case. A quick search will show you that certain hospitals and laboratories charge different prices for the same process, but why exactly is a test more expensive in some hospitals compared to other places?

In an interview with Teleradyo, Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 said the price tag for an RT-PCR test covers several things: the testing kit itself, the machine used to extract the result, the technicians involved, and the protective equipment used.

"Puwedeng doon sa mga laboratories na mataas-taas ang charge, iyong cost ng running the test itself could be a factor. Tandaan natin na iba-iba iyong machines na ginagamit," Ong-Lim said.

(It could be that in the laboratories that charge more, the cost of running the actual test could be a factor. Let's remember that different machines are used.)

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The RT-PCR test, considered the gold standard in COVID testing, takes several hours to process using several machines. After a sample is taken, patients usually wait a day at least for the results. It may take a week if many tests are being processed at a time.

"Factor din iyong tinatawag na biosafety. 'Pag kukuhanan ka ng swab, kailangan iyong technician, naka-PPE... Sa loob ng laboratory ganoon din ang set-up at medyo costly iyon," she added.

(Another factor is what we call biosafety. When the nasal or oral swab is taken, the technician must wear personal protective equipment. It's the same set-up inside the laboratory so it's rather costly.)

RT-PCR tests are more accessible now compared to the start of community quarantines in March. Some can choose to have their test taken via drive-thru. Authorities are also looking to bring down the costs of testing by trying out pool testing.

Continue reading below ↓

Still, Ong-Lim suggested authorities to consult hospitals and laboratories on putting a price cap on testing, along with providing insights in order to possibly bring down testing costs.

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