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Netcare, Mediclinic & Life monopoly blocking possible competitors - inquiry

Half of the 800 hospitals in the country are government-run and they serve 83% of the population that doesn’t have medical insurance.

Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The Competition Commission said three main private hospital groups - Netcare, Mediclinic and Life - made it difficult for newcomers and fringe-players to grow and to compete on merit.

The commission is on Monday morning releasing its final findings on whether the private health sector has been unprincipled to South Africans, six years after an inquiry was established to investigate it.

It said it was so difficult to obtain information during and it recommended that disclosure on health financing should be made compulsory.

Half of the 800 hospitals in the country are government-run and they serve 83% of the population that doesn’t have medical insurance.

The other 400 facilities are accessible to only 16% of the population that has medical aid.

The Competition Commission said this is one of the indicators that established players that include hospitals and medical schemes prevent, restrict and distort competition.

It said Netcare, Mediclinic and Life bind the best medical specialists to their hospitals with lucrative inducement programmes and that excluded innovative newcomers.

They also dictate year-on-year price and costs increases for funders.

The commission said the Department of Health was not using its legislated powers to manage the private healthcare market.

NEW REGULATOR & PRICES

The Competition Commission has called for a new regulator to be established to keep health funders, facilities and practitioners in check.

The Competition Commission inquiry has found that health practitioners have been sending patients to private hospitals unnecessarily, just because medical schemes will pay.

Professor Sharon Fonn said: “Our Caesarean sections in South Africa are through the roof. It’s 300% higher, of course, the individual pays for it, but it pushes up the package of care so all pay more.”

The inquiry has recommended that a supply-side health regulator be established to manage a multilateral price negotiating forum and set prices that no medical scheme or service provider will go above for prescribed minimum benefits.

Dr Ntuthuko Bhengu said they would address pricing in the medical sector.

“Our approach is that there will be three levels for pricing. The first level is the unilateral negotiation forum which caters for practitioners. The second level is the bilateral negotiation while the third will be focused on provider networks.”

The inquiry has recommended that prices be reviewed every three years.

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