Competition Commission: Bupa must provide patients with more information

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Bupa should provide policyholders with "clear and accurate" information as to why they are being recommended to and against the use of certain consultants, the Competition Commission (CC) has advised.

In its market investigation into UK private healthcare, the CC noted that private medical insurers (PMIs), in particular Bupa, needed to ensure it was providing patients with the proper information.

However, the CC concluded that while the two largest private medical insurers (PMIs) Bupa and Axa PPP, had consultant buying power, it found no evidence to suggest this was harming competition, for example, by leading to a shortage of consultants in private practice.

The CC also criticised the use of incentive schemes employed by private hospital operators, who had argued that they were offered on the grounds of attracting key talent as competition for consultants was intense.

According to the report, both Bupa and Axa PPP generally condemned incentives schemes and raised concerns that there were adverse medical and competitive effects.

Incentive schemes were described as affecting consultants' referral decisions as well as being likely to lead to the distortion of patient choice of diagnosis and treatment options.

The report also argued that information on the performance of private hospitals had been below the standard of that of NHS hospitals. It added that while this information was expected to improve, at present it was insufficient to promote competition between private hospitals, which the CC said reduced competition between consultants on the basis of quality and price.

Bupa acknowledged the Commission's call for better information for patients on the prices charged by private hospitals and consultants, and the quality of service, saying it was "committed to playing its part in communicating this information to its customers".

 

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