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Competition Commission announces private healthcare inquiry “open for public comment”

June 7, 2014

Civil society has until the end of the month to make our voices heard in the competition commission’s long-awaited investigation into private healthcare costs

Tired of paying exorbitant medical fees for private healthcare?

Now is your chance to air your grievances as the competition commission’s inquiry into the costs of private healthcare opens for public comment.

Retired Chief Justice Sandile Ncobo, heading the six-member panel, is looking for your thoughts on how the market operates to establish whether practices do or don’t comply with legislation. Your submissions must include accurate supporting evidence to substantiate your claims and must be submitted to the inquiry by 30 June.

For years Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has decried the unjustifiably high costs of private healthcare in the country, largely caused by a lack of regulation that has allowed medical practitioners and hospital administrators to set their own fees.

Now, two years after initiating the market inquiry, the panel has published a draft statement of the issues the inquiry is set to tackle.

The issues, or harm theories as the panel calls them, seek to answer six pertinent questions central to the investigation, including, among others: whether providers of healthcare financing were using market power to harm competition, whether geographical dominance creates an uneven playing ground for certain healthcare facilities, barriers to entry for new players and information disparities for consumers.

The relationship between medical practitioners and hospitals is expected to come under scrutiny as well as whether consumers have access to enough information to make informed decisions when choosing medical schemes.

“Practitioners operate out of hospitals, but the Health Professions Council of SA rules prevent them from being employed by hospitals. However practitioners may own shares in hospitals,” the draft statement reads.

Submissions are also open for comment on the public sector healthcare particularly around areas of excellence in academic hospitals with private wards.

Practitioners and hospital adminsitrators have until 1 August to make their submissions. Between 1 March and 30 April next year, public hearings will be held and information analysed. The report findings are expected to be released in October next year.

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