Irish Medical Organisation

Competition Authority 'wrong about talks on fees' - Irish Times, 31st January

Competition Authority 'was wrong about talks on fees'
Healthplus, Irish Times 31st January 2012

Extracts from PRISCILLA LYNCH's article on the comments made by the former Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, who states that interpretation of competition law hampers changes in healthcare.
"A FORMER attorney general has said the Competition Authority was incorrect in its interpretation of competition law, when it deemed illegal negotiations on fees between the State and medical representative bodies for the provision of public health services.
According to Paul Gallagher, who was Irish attorney general between 2007 and 2011, the authority’s position is wrong “as a matter of law”, and has created significant uncertainty on the part of the representative bodies about what they can and cannot do, and hampered the Government in implementing necessary healthcare changes.
While he said he had great admiration for much of the authority’s work, Mr Gallagher alleged its suggestion in October 2008 that the Government could be breaking the law if it negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation about the axing of over-70s medical cards was “extremely unhelpful” and created obstacles to resolving an important issue.
He said he firmly believed efficient implementation of changes in healthcare service provision required consultation with representative bodies....
However, Carol Boate, advocacy division manager of the Competition Authority, told the forum that it had not threatened anyone with jail regarding breaches of competition law, but admitted its 2008 statements had been unclear and created uncertainty.
She said further documents published since then had clarified the situation and stressed the authority was keen for the Government and medical representative bodies to sit down to discuss new contracts.
Meanwhile, a leading competition expert told the forum that Ireland’s planned universal health insurance system may be subject to competition law despite Government statements to the contrary.
Top-level healthcare executives from across the public and private sector attended last week’s forum, which looked at the role of competition within healthcare and how changes in policy affect it."
© 2012 The Irish Times

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