Market enquiry into private healthcare sector in high gear: Antoinette Slabbert – Moneyweb‏

Various lines of argument have emerged from stakeholder submissions.

SIKI MGABADELI: From power problems to the enquiry into private healthcare in South Africa. As you are aware, the Competition Commission is undertaking a market enquiry into competition in the private healthcare market. The Commission posted submissions from stakeholders on its website today.
   The probe began in January 2014, and was set up to conduct an independent investigation of the private healthcare market in light of concerns about the affordability of private healthcare. It was appointed and led by the retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo to conduct this enquiry.
   At the heart of the Commission’s concerns is the fact that private healthcare appears to be unaffordable to most South Africans. Medical inflation runs ahead of overall consumer inflation.
   The commission is investigating whether there are failures or distortions to competition in the market that result in expensive medical care services.
   Then they are going to have public hearings. Everybody is going to be able to come in – and we know all the main healthcare and hospital groups, Netcare, Discovery, all those people. The stakeholders are handing in their submissions. Everybody has got some interest in the way that the private healthcare sector works and how that relates to the sector. So it’s going to be interesting.
   The Commission is saying it’s not a witch hunt, it’s not an investigation, it’s just an enquiry –how it works and whether there is any validity to the complaints that they’ve been getting from the public. I could not get through any pages today.
   Moneyweb’s own Antoinette Slabbert is on the line now.

ANTOINETTE SLABBERT: Good evening, Siki. No, that will take time to get through the 15 000 pages. Sandile Ngcobo, who chairs the panel, gave us the main themes in the submissions. He said that most parties agreed that the costs are high in the industry, and inflation in the industry is higher than general inflation.
   He said they did hear a lot about the reasons for these things. One line of argument was that there is an excess of market power, especially among hospital groups, medical schemes and specialists.
   And another theme was the regulatory environment, with some saying some areas are over-regulated, some areas are under-regulated. In other areas there are regulations but they are not being enforced.
   And then another theme was that the industry is not transparent, especially in pricing, the costs and the quality of service, with the result that a member of the public who has to make decisions about health services is not totally informed. He can’t make an informed decision,

SIKI MGABADELI: Wow. So what is the next step, now? I understand they are going to have public hearings, so there is still quite a bit to go through.

ANTOINETTE SLABBERT: For the next month or so, maybe two months, this commission will try to verify the infrastructure that they’ve got and seek further information. And then also stakeholders can go through these submissions and respond to them.
   And then after April there will be public hearings. We don’t have the exact dates yet. After the public hearings the commission will publish a provisional report, and there they will give an indication of what recommendations they considered, and there’s another opportunity for stakeholders to comment on that. And hopefully by November there should be a final report with possibly recommendations to the Minister of Economic Development. And then if he deems it fit he will take that to Cabinet and there may be some legislative changes, depending obviously on what they find.

SIKI MGABADELI: Thanks, Antoinette.

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