Private healthcare: If inquiry finds need for price regulation, competition commission will recommend it

2013-10-30 14:53

The competition commission says its mandate is not to regulate prices in the private healthcare sector but if a market inquiry reveals a need for this, it will not hesitate to recommend it to government.

Acting commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele told City Press on the sidelines of the three-day Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa) conference in Cape Town today that statements that the commission was instructed to conduct an inquiry into the private healthcare sector so that it can give government leverage to regulate the industry was misleading.

“We cannot dispute that if the committee finds that there is need for regulation we will recommend (it) but that is not the intention of the market inquiry.

“Our focus will be on determining how the industry decides on its prices as well as to evaluate if the current system where patients are instructed to go to a certain hospital without knowing how much they would be charged, is working or not,” he explained.

But the draft terms of reference, which were published for public comment in May, clearly states that the main objectives of the market inquiry is to:

» Make recommendations on appropriate policy and regulatory mechanisms that would support the goal of achieving accessible, affordable, innovative and quality private healthcare; and

» Make recommendations on whether price-setting mechanisms may be acceptable within the competition policy context.

Bonakele said: “These were proposed draft regulations and even then it depends how you interpret them.”

The inquiry is now expected to begin early next year and not next month as the commission had said earlier.

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