Johannesburg, 24 January 2018 – Users of private healthcare in South Africa are set to pay the price for further delays in the publication of the final report of the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry (HMI). The HMI commenced five years ago to investigate amongst other issues the cost drivers in the private health sector.

A notice issued to stakeholders on 23 January 2019 stated that the Inquiry’s work has been suspended due to budget constraints. The HMI has been plagued with delays since its inception, with a court challenge from Netcare, delays in obtaining data from stakeholders such as medical schemes and private hospitals, the complexity of the data and the analysis thereof, and now a lack of funding.

It was recently revealed that the HMI has spent R196 million on consultants over the duration of the inquiry, which began in January 2014.  It is the work of these consultants and the Panel and Competition Commission staff that will be suspended until the end of the current financial year.

In addition to resistance from some stakeholders it appears that there is now also a lack of political will for the HMI to conclude its work. “If the HMI was a priority for government, the money would have been found. That the money hasn’t been found at such a crucial stage in the process is deeply concerning. The delay is particularly worrisome in the light of the considerable investment so far,” says Umunyana Rugege, Executive Director of SECTION27. “The cost of finalising the work of the Inquiry is likely to be a fraction of the potential cost-savings from appropriate private healthcare sector reforms.”

South Africa is currently in the process of designing and implementing major reforms to how healthcare is provided in this country – most notably through National Health Insurance (NHI) and reforms to how the private sector works. We expect that the final HMI report will provide important evidence and analysis to guide and inform these changes to our public and private healthcare sectors. We are concerned that the more the final HMI report is delayed, the more NHI and HMI gets delinked from each other and the less impact the HMI’s important evidence and analysis will have on healthcare reform in South Africa.

We are disappointed that the potential and much-needed reforms to South Africa’s health system have now been delayed once again. These delays will in turn delay important reforms that have the potential to make quality healthcare more affordable in South Africa.

While we are cognisant of the need to complete this work within budgetary constraints, the rights of healthcare users must be at the forefront of planning and executing on the HMI’s mandate. We urge the Competition Commission to prioritise the completion of its work on the HMI and publish the final report as a matter of urgency.

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For more information contact Ntsiki Mpulo on 082 7827143 or at mpulo@section27.org.za.

SECTION27 Submission on the Health Market Inquiry’s Provisional Report