Consumer watchdog angers med aids

August 8, 2011

by TAMAR KAHN (Business Day)

THE registrar of the Council for Medical Schemes, Monwabisi Gantsho, has criticised the head of the National Consumer Commission, saying she does not appreciate the complexities of the industry he oversees and should focus her attention elsewhere.

His is the third industry to cross swords with the commission, headed by Mamodupi Mohlala, which has already rattled the telecommunications and property sectors. More conflict is likely, as the commission is investigating the hospital industry, with work due to be completed in October.

Last week Ms Mohlala told a broker conference that a preliminary investigation into SA’s five biggest medical schemes found they were contravening the new Consumer Protection Act (CPA), and giving patients a raw deal.

“It’s unfortunate that the commissioner has started to pronounce on a number of things that are in conflict with the CPA … without understanding the intricacies of private healthcare and the medical schemes industry,” said Dr Gantsho. “The commission has only been in existence since April. We’ve been in place for 11 years.

“There are many areas the consumer commissioner can focus on, (such as) retail and manufacturing, and leave out an area that is to a large extent covered by regulations,” he said.

Dr Gantsho said he had applied to the trade and industry minister on behalf of the medical schemes industry for an exemption from aspects of the act.

The act was at odds with the Medical Schemes Act as it focused on the interests of consumers and did not balance their rights against the provisions needed to ensure the medical schemes industry remained viable, he said.

Ms Mohlala responded: “People must not be emotional about the issues but deal with the facts. We’ve been very specific about the aspects (of the CPA) we believe have been violated.”

Preliminary investigations into the rules of SA’s top medical schemes, which were approved by the Council for Medical Schemes, found numerous contraventions of the act, she said, declining to name the schemes until they had formally responded to the commission’s findings. The commission planned to release a final report on that investigation next month, she said.

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