Private healthcare groups have rejected findings from the Competition Commission including the assertion that their hospitals face little competition, exercise market power or make excessive profits at the expense of patients.
Stephen Collier, chief executive of BMI Healthcare described such findings as "simply wrong because they are based on a flawed analysis of the reality of providing high quality private healthcare."
Rob Roger, chief executive of Spire Healthcare "strongly disagreed" with such findings and said they were contrary to evidence presented to the Commission.
BMI's Collier insisted BMI Healthcare does not "hold the whip hand" in terms of its relationship with medical insurers.
He said: "Networks are created and maintained by insurers, not hospital operators, and insurers use them to drive competition between hospitals for network status.
"Insurers can - and do - exclude hospitals from the networks they created as Bupa did by excluding 37 BMI hospitals from its networks less than two years ago, leaving the ‘delisted' hospitals with the same high fixed costs, but with significantly reduced income, while the insurers continued to receive subscription income and send patients elsewhere.
"Medical inflation - and premiums for private medical insurance - have been rising fast in recent years, but our prices to insurers have risen more slowly. This does not support the Commission's provisional conclusion that BMI Healthcare has market power when negotiating with insurers."
Collier pointed out that BMI's facilities face significant local competition from other private hospitals and increasingly the NHS. He said its belief that BMI Healthcare makes excess profits ignores financial realities such as the costs of keeping hospitals equipped in a depressed UK market.
However, BMI Healthcare, HCA and Spire Healthcare all welcomed guidance on incentivising consultants and a push for greater transparency and outcomes for patients.
Meanwhile in a statement, HCA said it is disappointed that quality of clinical care and investment in innovation and its benefit for patients seems to have been ignored by the Competition Commission.
Keith Biddlestone, commercial director at HCA International, said: "Ten years ago, hospitals now owned by HCA were sold because they weren't thought viable. Huge investment by HCA has converted them into world-class centres offering innovative, complex care in a safe clean, compassionate environment that patients around the world seek out every day."
BMI's Collier said while healthcare markets are dynamic and complex, and hard to regulate appropriately, he was disappointed and suprised by the evidence which deviated from the group's analysis and some of the Commission's previous views.
"Nevertheless we appreciate that these are the Commission's initial, provisional, findings and we intend to work constructively with the Commission over the next few weeks so that its determinations - and associated remedies - do not undermine private healthcare to the detriment of those who matter - our patients" he concluded.