ACCC authorises HCF to cap prices on dental services

Posted: 15 May 2018 5:54 am
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HCF to offer its members "no-gap" arrangements for More for Teeth dental services.

In what will come as welcome news to HCF members, the ACCC approved HCF and participating dentists to set a maximum price for some dental services and has approved HCF's expansion of its Dental Clinic Network outside of New South Wales.

The current More For Teeth program provides members with access to "no-gap" services for a range of dental procedures with dentists that have volunteered to enter the program. The concerns, and the reason for HCF's original submission to the ACCC, all stem from HCF's Dental Clinic Network pushing into areas that have existing More For Teeth providers and whether or not it could potentially be a breach of competition law, particularly those provisions related to price fixing.

“While some parties raised broader concerns about the role of insurers in dental services, the price setting we are authorising is very specific and we concluded that it is unlikely to affect competition or result in other significant public detriments,” ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said in a statement.

One of the parties raising concerns was the Australian Dental Association (ADA), which said that HCF's proposal was not in the public's interest. The ADA was firmly against the proposal and said it was analogous to a situation involving Bupa and dentists in South Australia.

“The ADA was the only health practitioner association that made submissions and presentations to the ACCC that HCF’s proposal was not in the public interest. The ADA used the South Australian case where Bupa, with market dominance in a number of contracted dentists, has withdrawn support from these practitioners, favouring and effectively redirecting policyholders to Bupa owned and run clinics," ADA President Dr Hugo Sachs said in a statement.

While the ACCC has given HCF the go-ahead, the authorisation period is for five years and not the 10 year period originally submitted by HCF.

“Should HCF seek to reapply for authorisation, it will need to demonstrate over the next five years its expansion of dental clinics that overlap its own contracted providers are not a means of steering policyholders to the former; but consumers have overall benefitted through increased, better value health care," Dr Sachs said.

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