IDR450K PCR swab tests not cheap enough amid calls that they should be free

A case tracer in North Jakarta performing a swab test. Photo courtesy of Abimanyu
A case tracer in North Jakarta performing a swab test. Photo courtesy of Abimanyu

Much has been made about the relatively steep price of PCR swab tests in Indonesia amid comparisons with India recently, prompting President Joko Widodo yesterday to order the Health Ministry to slash the price by about half to make it more affordable for the general public.

Related — Indonesians call for cheaper PCR swab tests amid comparisons with India

During a national address yesterday, Jokowi said he has instructed the Health Ministry to lower the price ceiling of the PCR test to IDR450K-550K (US$31.30-38.25) from IDR900K (US$62.59) currently. The ministry has said that it’s looking into ways to lower the price and that Jokowi’s order could be realized soon.

While Jokowi’s initiative has been applauded, lowering the price may require great financial intervention by the government, the Indonesian Hospital Association (Persi) said. The association argued that cheaper PCR tests are possible if the government subsidizes their associated costs so test labs aren’t financially burdened.

The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) said a government audit is necessary to determine whether or not anti-competitive practices exist that have been spiking up the cost of PCR test components in the country, given that there has been little to no transparency from private providers of the test regarding the costs of said components.

Meanwhile, major figures are calling for even cheaper PCR tests, including a House of Parliament (DPR) member who said that even at IDR300K (US$20.86) per test, labs still stand to make a profit.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest Islamic clerical body and a prominent political influence in the country, said the government should go one step further and take over the procurement of PCR test kits from the private sector so they can be distributed to the public free of charge.

“Why must the state sell [PCR test kits] or allow entrepreneurs to sell them at a high price? Is the state making business out of the people?” MUI Deputy Chairman Anwar Abbas said today, adding that Indonesia’s constitution prohibits the government from making a profit out of its citizens. 

Other politicians, health experts, and celebrities have also called for free PCR tests in Indonesia.

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