On 5 February 2015 the Panel of the Market Inquiry into the Private Healthcare Sector (Inquiry) presented an information session on the status of the Inquiry. On the same day the Panel published the non-confidential stakeholder submissions it received. The Panel further invited stakeholders to make limited additional submissions in respect of the submissions received by the Panel.
The Panel expressed their gratitude for the various submissions already received but also indicated that not all stakeholder in the private healthcare market made submissions to the Panel. Despite this, the Panel was satisfied with the extent of submissions received.
The Panel summarised the major themes that emerged from the submissions, being:
- that private healthcare expenditure is high and that private healthcare inflation is higher than general inflation;
- concerns about the regulatory environment in the private healthcare market;
- concerns about lack of information available to patients, highlighting a general lack of transparency in accessing private healthcare information, in particular on pricing costs and quality of services; and
- the challenges of reconciling recommendations relating to the private healthcare sector and the development and implementation of long-term public healthcare policies.
The Panel indicated that this is not an exhaustive list of themes that it is considering and also hastened to add that it has not formed any views on these or other issues and that the Panel's views will be reflected in its provisional findings, which stakeholders and the public will have an opportunity to comment on.
The Panel stressed that it is committed to fairness, openness and transparency as far as possible during this process and as part of this commitment, it is publishing all the relevant submissions received. Stakeholders are invited to comment on these submissions to address material issues that appear from the submissions made by other stakeholders. The Panel emphasised that this is not an opportunity for any stakeholder to make further submissions or to make submissions if they did not previously make submissions to the Panel. The deadlines for these submissions is 17h00 on Thursday, 5 March 2015. It was raised during the question and answer session that a month may not be sufficient time to consider the sixty eight submissions made to the Panel and to meaningfully comment on these submissions. The Chairperson indicated that this deadline may be reconsidered, however, did not commit to any extension.
Going forward, the Panel will engage with various stakeholders on the content of their submissions and will issue written requests for information where needed. The Panel may also request meetings with relevant stakeholders (which is likely to take the form of site visits). Due to the Inquiry's timeline, this process will have to be completed by Tuesday, 31 March 2015.
Following the stakeholder engagement, public hearings will be conducted. Pre-hearing meetings with stakeholders will be scheduled to work out a timetable for the public hearings. It is anticipated that these pre-hearing meetings may take place at the beginning of April, but the exact date is still to be announced. The Commission has published an invitation for stakeholders to participate in the public hearing and the deadline for registration is 31 March 2015.
Following the public hearings, the Panel will publish its provisional findings in which it will set out the data and information it relied upon, its methodology and its provisional conclusions. Stakeholders and the public will then have further time to comment on these provisional findings and recommendations. The Panel will then present its final recommendations.
The Panel stressed that it is constrained in terms of timing. The deadline for the completion of the Inquiry is November 2015, however, if the need arises this deadline can be extended. The Panel will have an internal planning session towards the end of February to make decisions on a possible review of its timeline (which is likely) and an announcement to this effect will probably follow in early March.