The Office of Fair Trading has made a provisional decision to refer the private healthcare market to the Competition Commission.
It made the decision following a report into the market which found unclear information on treatment costs was being given to consumers and that insurers could be undermining competition between healthcare providers.
It adds that the concentration of healthcare providers and insurers could be leading to the dominance of certain providers and to big insurers “relying” on those providers to offer national coverage to policyholders.
According to the report, some healthcare providers could be offering incentives to consultants for sending patients to certain facilities while bigger healthcare providers could be using their dominant position to impose price rises. It says these factors represent “significant barriers to entry” for new competitors.
The OFT says the concentration of providers and insurers, unclear information on costs and barriers could be “preventing, restricting or distorting” competition.
OFT chief executive John Fingleton says: “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. We have provisionally decided that these significant concerns merit a more in-depth investigation by the Competition Commission.”
ABI director of general insurance and health Nick Starling says: “We welcome this report and the need to ensure a competitive market for high quality private healthcare. We agree with the concerns raised on transparency and support consultants clearly informing patients on treatment options and costs.”