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Healthcare panel Investigates Private Sector

A panel, headed by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, started a market inquiry in January this year to investigate concerns about private healthcare.

A Business Day Live report states that the reason for the investigation involves concerns that prices in the private healthcare sector are too high and exclude most South Africans from accessing quality healthcare. Prices across key parts of the sector have been rising above inflation for several years, raising the government’s suspicions that not all is well in terms of healthy competition in the market.

Some of the specific harmful issues being looked at concerns those that may affect prices, expenditure, cost and ultimately competition in the private healthcare sector. The panel is investigating aspects of the regulatory framework governing the sector, and includes:

  • barriers for new entrants;
  • information mismatches for consumers; and
  • the exercise of market power by some players.

The terms of reference for the market inquiry were published in November 2013, giving the panel two years to complete the inquiry. The inquiry will only start after August, however, mainly as a result of delays caused by litigation against the commission’s technical advisers and panel. The report notes that stakeholders will have until 30 June to comment on the issues that were identified and the final statement of issues will be published on 1 August.

One matter that may well be added is the impact of fraud on the cost of private healthcare. Last week, Discovery published details of the extent of dubious claims amounting to millions, and over the weekend, reports on the GEMS annual report also disclosed some serious numbers involving fraud.

One article notes that it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the problem as product providers do not share information in this regard.

Perhaps the old adage “united we stand, divided we fall” should indicate the way forward if the industry is to address this serious problem.


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