In the context of a sector inquiry into the market of medical services, the Competition Council (CC) of Latvia identified gaps of sector regulation and governance that distort competition and hinder price reduction and increase of service availability.
Due to regulations by the Cabinet of Ministers there have been set unjustified and nearly unfeasible requirements for newly opened private practice or health centre to provide state-funded services. Since it may be difficult or even impossible for newly opened medical institution to attract a sufficient number of patients and to conquer the market place without provision of state-funded services, the CC concludes that particular regulations disproportionately restrict opportunities of doctors to create private practices.
Similarly to other industries, such competition restriction not only instantly reduces a number of available services to consumers, but also potentially reduces probability of receiving services that are cheaper, more conveniently accessible, of higher quality or by any other means better.
Furthermore, harm to the professional growth of doctors is also a considerable aspect. Ms Skaidrīte Ābrama, the Chairwoman of the CC, says: “In times when patients’ complaints on expensiveness and inaccessibility of medical services become more and more audible, while salary and career opportunities of doctors often force highly qualified professionals to seek for work options abroad, in Latvia there are regulations that undermine private professional life opportunities of doctors and reduce choice of patients.”
Additionally to restrictions to doctors, the CC found other conditions that affect prices and accessibility of services.
Quotas of state-funded services that are not reviewed in a timely manner increase prices of paid medical services due to cross-subsidization – costs of free medical services that are not covered by the allocated state funding are covered by incomes from paid services.
Furthermore, non-transparent and difficult to access information hinders opportunities of patients to choose services that are available faster or cheaper.
The CC has informed the Ministry of Health on conclusions of the inquiry.
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