ANC prescribes lower health bills

19 August 2015 - 02:09 By Katharine Child

The ANC wants cheaper private healthcare. In the discussion documents for its national general council meeting to be held in October, the party asks its committees to research the matter.But how exactly costs might be cut is unclear.The Competition Commission inquiry into private healthcare prices that began last year will not be completed as planned in November, due to the complexity of the issues being investigated.And the head of the Pretoria University economics department, Steven Koch, is sceptical that costs can be forced downwards."Globally, healthcare costs have risen above inflation for years ... with only a few exceptions."The "government could start by regulating prices but, in general, that creates all sorts of mayhem".So what drives costs up? In some cases, it is us.Econex economist Helen Kean said increased use of hospitals added to medical aid spending and higher premiums."I have seen solid data that older people are using hospitals more, not a bad thing, but this drives up expenditure and thus medical aid premiums," Kean said.Increased prevalence of some diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, among medical aid members also drove up costs, she said.New drugs and technologies to treat patients who could not previously be treated come at a price.According to the SA Private Practitioners' Forum spokesman, Chris Archer, the increased suing of doctors was also a cost factor."Doctors practise so-called defensive medicine to protect against possible litigation. This includes the added expenses of unnecessary investigations and even procedures."Other costs included in submissions to the Competition Commission are:Medical aids being legally required to accept sick and old members but young healthy employed people not being compelled to join a medical aid - something planned to be rectified.Independent experts showed premiums could drop by as much as 30% if this were enforced, said Discovery Health.A shortage of doctors and a law preventing them being privately trained.Hospitals being unable, by law, to employ doctors. Medical practitioners have to set up their own practices, buy equipment and recoup costs themselves.The high number of C-sections performed.

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