The competition commission has made an agreement with two Covid-19 test providers to reduce their prices.
The Competition Commission and Covid-19 testing kit suppliers reached an agreement with Ampath and Lancet to reduce the price of Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Previously, a PRC test would cost South Africans R850, but the tests are now set to cost R500.
Health Lawyer Safura Abdool Karim says the announcement is a compromise. She alleges that the compromise was made after the competition commission made adverse findings against the test providing companies. Part of the agreement means that Ampath and Lancet won’t be liable to pay any fines.
Karim does expect the cost of tests to reduce even further over the coming year. She does however say that if this does not happen, the competition commission will be put in the same position.
She said, “the price of these tests should be going down and down as time goes, it shouldn't be staying the same so you know either by force or willingly and voluntarily the cost of these tests are likely down”.
In South Africa, people can choose to get tested for Covid-19 at a public institution for free but there is a large number of people who choose to test privately. Many people who choose to test privately benefit from medical aids who will pay for the test due to it being a prescribed minimum benefit. However some still have to pay.
Noluthando Nematswerani from Discovery Health says she is hopeful the announcement is the first step in a downward trend of the price of testing in the country. She revealed that Discovery Health paid around R2.1 billion for Covid-19 tests in the last 20 months.
Nematswerani says there may still be room to reduce the price even further.
She explained “R500 is not affordable to the general public and I think for the schemes as well. R500 is it may not necessarily be affordable if you think about everything that schemes have to pay for towards covid, so it's the testing, it's the treatment for Covid, hospitalisation and everything that relates to Covid including vaccinations”.