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U.K. Regulator Looks at Private Health-Care Market, Times Says

Britain’s private health-care business has been the subject of an initial inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading after a complaint that the market is insufficiently competitive, the London-based Times reported.

Agreements between the biggest private hospital companies and insurers such as British United Provident Association Ltd., Axa PPP Healthcare Ltd. and Aviva Plc were the target of the complaint from Circle, a private health provider run on a partnership basis, the newspaper said.

General Healthcare Group, Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Hospitals and Ramsay Health Care Ltd. provide more than 60 percent of private health care; they negotiate “network agreements” with insurers to provide operations at certain prices over fixed periods, in exchange for guarantees on patient numbers, the Times said.

Insurers can refuse to reimburse patients who go to recently build hospitals or those run by new companies, the newspaper said.

A study by the London School of Economics, Imperial College and Bristol University found that, in some parts of the country, private hospitals operate in “de facto monopoly markets,” the Times said. The Office of Fair Trading hasn’t yet decided whether to conduct a full investigation, the newspaper added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Purkiss in London on apurkiss@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge in London at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net.

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