SECTION27 and Corruption Watch have partnered in convening a civil society engagement during the Competition Commission’s market inquiry into the private healthcare sector.

The first two engagements were held on 15 and 29 April 2014, and the first stakeholder meeting convened by the market inquiry panel was held on 16 April 2014.

The next civil society engagement is scheduled for 18 June.

Several organisations, including Soul City, the National Consumer Forum, Treatment Action Campaign, the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Centre for Economic Governance and Aids in Africa, Amnesty International, Africa Check, and Health-e, were represented at the first two civil society meetings. Justice Sandile Ngcobo, the panel chairperson, was also present.

Attendees agreed that a civil society presence in the inquiry was important for social justice, and they committed to some level of involvement in the market inquiry, dependant on available capacity and resources.

The underlying values of the Constitution must underpin the whole process, the organisations present agreed, and social justice must be at its core.

Attendees agreed on the following principles:

  • the market inquiry should be framed as a public interest undertaking with particular emphasis on the right to health care services.
  • we should ensure that patients can participate in the process and that it is transparent, responsive, accountable and accessible.
  • we should emphasise the importance of holding private power and public power to account.
  • we should support the commission as an important public institution using its powers to promote the public interest.

Various questions were posed from the floor:

  • Will there be a comparison of prices in the public and private sector? In particular, the heavily subsidised public health care sector and the quality in provision of health care services cannot be compared.
  • What does consumables mean and are they regulated?
  • Why can’t the Commission sets prices or draft laws? The Commission is set up to regulate markets where not regulated. Remedies however will be proposed such as divestiture.
  • Cancer Alliance stated that there is a fundamental assumption of profit-taking and that this is not right. There needs to be a comparison with other countries.
  • The Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum spoke about health outcomes. Compared with other countries, South Africa is not really getting value for money. Mention was made of the impact of private health on national health data.
  • The Helen Suzman Foundation spoke about its interest in analysing medical schemes and out-of-pocket expenditure.

The market inquiry panel intends to convene pre-hearing meetings to discuss the process for public hearings and will hold other meetings intended to aid the layman in understanding the rules of engagement. This is an important opportunity for civil society groups to engage with the panel.  These engagements will take place once the panel is ready for public hearings.

Throughout the duration of the inquiry, there will be seminars and workshops on the process of the inquiry. These may even be conducted individually with various stakeholders.

For more information about the civil society engagement thus far, download this PDF which covers the meetings in greater detail.