Competition Related Issues In Health Sectors

Healthcare sector is distinct from other sectors as there exist inherent loopholes in information which renders setting competition in this field difficult as compared to other sectors. For this reason it is often believed that the competition law may not be applicable to healthcare in the way it is applied in other sectors. However the ultimate purpose of any competition law is to protect the interest of the consumers and to ensure efficiency and competitiveness in the market. The competition law is applicable to healthcare players if they can be considered as undertakings. Since hospitals, health professionals, health insurers, pharmaceutical firms, pharmacists, etc. perform economic activities and supply service to the public at large, thus they can be considered to be undertakings and hence are subject to competition rules. In the developing nations most patients are neither covered by public nor private health insurance. Companies in such nations do not compete via prices but rather through innovation. In such cases where consumers are not the decision makers are often misguided by doctors and pharmacists into purchasing expensive medicines and sometimes even irrational combinations of medicines leading to medical complications. It is here where the efficiency of the market is lost with patients not being provided with the best possible treatment/medicines at the lowest possible prices and hence, a monopoly has been created and high credit companies or institutions such as Hospitals, Medical Colleges, pharmacies, diagnostic centres, etc have their dominance, which they are abusing.The application of competition law improves the quality of care by protecting the patient against unfair and anticompetitive practices such as abuse of dominant position, distribution agreements, etc. At times, practices that restrict competition may themselves be quality enhancing, in that case competition law may make an exception. The competition policy in India is laid out in the Competition Act, 2002 with an object to curb out the monopolies, to promote healthy competition and to prevent practices having an adverse affect on competition and abuse of dominance of enterprises either by entering into anti-competitive agreements, or combinations.The anti-competitive activities in the health sector in India are rising day by day due to negligence of various concerned authorities and due to asymmetry information available in this field. The range of medical treatment to a patient differs from person to person, thereby claim to ascertain a fixed amount of money regarding any health facility cannot be meet out entirely, but solution can be offered to this problem by way of the Competition Act, by focusing on to few basics, which include-anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominance, regulation of criterion to grant certification in this sector, etc. Such agreements and abuse need to be watched out carefully by strict application of the law in this field. Following steps need to be followed: 1) Anti-competitive agreements must be watched out and punished accordingly; 2) Giving more powers and recognitions to the Regulatory bodies; 3) To check out the abuse of dominance by such sectors; 4) To regulate the asymmetrical nature of information; 5) Maintaining public at large as consumers and their rights against such service providers; 6) To regulate the certification authorities and the certification criterion; 7) Regulatory barriers in the medical education sector need to be looked into to ensure adequate supply of well trained professionals.