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Standard med aid package can help consumers find better options - Patel

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said the inquiry into private healthcare had recommended a standard medical aid package that would make it easier for consumers to compare services.

FILE: Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: GCIS

SANDTON - Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Monday that health should be subjected to higher competition standards to ensure universal access.

He has received the private health inquiry report, which he said Cabinet would study soon.

Patel said the report, published on Monday, would also inform the National Health Insurance (NHI) process.

The Trade Minister said the inquiry into private healthcare had recommended a standard medical aid package that would make it easier for consumers to compare services.

“But the health market is also a very particular market, where standard competition cannot only apply. You have enormous imbalances in the bargaining power which the report points to."

He said the Minister of Health would lead the process to get the report to Parliament for the recommendations to be implemented.

“And government will look at how the insights and the information and the recommendations can ensure that the National Health Insurance system that is the purpose of the reforms that we want to make in public health can better service all South Africans.”

Patel said the NHI would also take the report into consideration.

The commission’s inquiry also found that health practitioners had been sending patients to private hospitals unnecessarily, just because medical schemes would pay.

It also found that various role-players had been colluding to rob consumers.

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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