Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has welcomed the Competition Commission’s health market inquiry (HMI) report, saying he will study it in detail to determine the next steps.

The final findings and recommendations from the five-year inquiry were published in a report released on Monday. The report includes a detailed assessment of the problems in the private healthcare market, and proposes a set of interlinked reforms to improve competition, drive down prices and provide patients with better information about the quality of care they receive.

“We commend the commission for the detailed analysis and the professional manner in which the work of the commission was approached,” the health department said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

“We call upon the private sector stakeholders to co-operate with government in the efforts to rectify the entire health sector as guided by the health market inquiry and the social compact signed by all stakeholders with the president,” it said, referring to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s blueprint for tackling some of the immediate crises facing the health system.

The inquiry's panel members said in a report that the state needed a well-regulated private healthcare sector to be an effective and strategic purchaser of services from providers ranging from hospitals to doctors. They made the case that effective private-sector competition was vital for the government’s plans for introducing universal health coverage, or national health insurance (NHI)

The inquiry has recommended the establishment of an independent “supply-side regulator for healthcare” that will oversee multilateral tariff negotiations between healthcare practitioners and medical schemes, which will be referred to an independent arbitrator if talks fail.

This regulator will also advise on best practice, issue facility licences and practice numbers, and liaise with a new body that is to be established to monitor the quality of care called the Outcomes Monitoring and Reporting Organisation.

The inquiry has also recommended demand-side reforms, which include introducing a single benefit package to be provided by all medical schemes, and a risk adjustment mechanism to ensure schemes compete on efficiency and value for money, rather than on their capacity to attract low-risk members.