A full Competition Commission inquiry into the private healthcare sector has been put forward by the Office of Fair Trading to improve the market for consumers.
A review by the commission could force changes in the relationship between the 5 main healthcare providers: Nuffield Health, General Healthcare Group, Spire Healthcare, HCA and Ramsay Health Care.
It could also change the relationship between private healthcare firms and the major insurers, giving customers better value for money.
An initial study in March by the OFT showed a shortage of accessible, standardised and comparable information about the price and quality of private hospitals and clinics.
With less competition, new private healthcare insurers face significant barriers when entering the market. Circle, established in 2004, has found it has been excluded from the health insurer’s hospital networks.
Less competition also means that health insurers cannot use their full buying power to get the best deal from private healthcare providers. John Fingleton, chief executive of the OFT, said:
“It is important that patient demand and choice are able to drive competition and innovation in this market with a view to better value for all patients.”
More competition in the private healthcare sector will benefit consumers. With more competition, insurers will be able to push for better prices for their customers, and there will be a greater choice for people looking to buy private medical insurance.
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