by HARRIET MCLEA
IN ORDER to regulate medical costs and stop private health bills escalating further, the Department of Health has announced its intention to establish a price negotiating forum.
Their previous attempt to establish a Reference Price List was thrown out, giving doctors freedom to charge what they wished.
Meanwhile, medical aids are forced by law to pay in full for prescribed minimum benefits.
Board of Healthcare Funders spokesman Heidi Kruger said: “Who wouldn’t charge as much as they could if they know they’d be paid out in full whatever they charged?”
She welcomed the proposal for a health pricing framework: “Health is not a commodity, it’s a social good so you only buy it when you need it.”
Council for Medical Schemes strategist Boshoff Steenekamp said that a “free market” could not apply to health because patients depended on their doctors to make decisions for them.
If prices were set too low, Steenekamp said, it would “stymie” competition and doctors would emigrate for better pay and hospitals could close down.
“No one would be willing to offer services at those prices,” he said.
But if prices were set too high, fewer people would be able to afford private healthcare and medical aid membership will decrease.
“It would be the same as if nothing is done at all,” said Steenekamp who added that independence was crucial for a health pricing regulatory body.