The Competition Commission has warned against what it calls blanket exemptions against the Competition Act in the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill. The commission says in the long run these exemptions could work against the objective of the NHI itself.
Commission Chief Economist James Hodge says any such exemptions would render the commission unable to investigate collusion and other non-competitive behaviour by private entities.
He added that the broad exemptions would undermine the goal of the NHI to negotiate the lowest possible price for healthcare services.
Hodge says South Africa has a long history of private sector companies abusing their market dominance and colluding on pricing.
“If there is no ability to investigate or prosecute collusion or abuse of dominance then there is little deterring private companies in the healthcare industry from engaging in these practices because they are effectively immune from prosecution. And that would be to the detriment of the NHI itself because the purpose of the NHI is bringing in the single purchaser is precisely to try and negotiate better prices for healthcare services. And it’s those lower prices through the NHI that are designed to achieve that universal access to quality healthcare services.”