SECTION27 statement on delay in interim findings of the Health Market Inquiry

On 22 June 2018, the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry (HMI) announced yet another delay in the release of its interim findings. The HMI, which commenced four and a half years ago to investigate, inter alia, the cost drivers in the private health sector, was originally due to conclude in December 2015.

The HMI has postponed the conclusion of the inquiry multiple times for several reasons, including the delays in obtaining data from stakeholders such as medical schemes and private hospitals, the complexity of the data and the analysis thereof, and on the need to allow stakeholders access to the underlying data relied upon by the HMI.

In August 2017, the HMI announced its intention to publish the provisional report by 30 November 2017, however, the three large hospital groups – Netcare Limited, Mediclinic SA and Life Healthcare – argued that publishing of the Provisional Report would be procedurally unfair without the relevant analysis reports and underlying confidential data and information, upon which the HMI has relied, being made available for scrutiny, prior to publication. The HMI subsequently gave access to the relevant information to the stakeholders. Since providing access to its underlying data, the HMI was set to release the interim report on 30 April, then 31 May, then 28 June.

The HMI’s latest communication states that while it has settled its disputes about the release of the interim report with Discovery Health, Netcare and Mediclinic, the dispute with Life Healthcare persists.

Life Healthcare has sought to delay the release of the report on the basis that it contains confidential information. The HMI has taken a decision to approach the Competition Tribunal in accordance with the Competition Act, for a determination as to whether the information in question is indeed confidential, and whether the publication in the form proposed by the HMI breaches confidentiality, as claimed by Life Healthcare.

While it is within Life Healthcare’s rights to protect its confidentiality, the ongoing delays in the inquiry impact on the rights of everyone that seeks to vindicate their right to health through the private health system.  The HMI heard in public hearings in 2016 about the information asymmetry experienced by patients as they try to navigate the private health system. In one of the public hearings, the chair of the HMI panel asked one of the schemes, “What is complicated about a person getting sick and knowing where to go and what to do?” The urgency of addressing the issues that have been the subject of the HMI for the past four and a half years is apparent as we as a society continue to ask questions about the affordability and equity of the private health system.

We call on the HMI to conduct the litigation with Life Healthcare speedily and to immediately release the interim report without further delay on the conclusion of the Competition Tribunal proceedings and to thereafter robustly engage the public on its interim findings. The findings and recommendations of the HMI are critical to the public debate on the National Health Insurance and the Medical Schemes Bills, and thus it is critical that these findings are made public as a matter of urgency.  We further call on the HMI to conclude the final report as speedily as possible following the public comment period in respect of the interim report.

For more information contact Ntsiki Mpulo at mpulo@section27.org.za or on 0827827143