U.K. Antitrust Regulator Seeks Wider Private Health-Care Probe

The U.K.’s initial regulator of antitrust issues plans to refer the private health-care market to the Competition Commission for further investigation of potential restrictions of the industry by dominant players.

Patients, general practitioners and health insurance providers lack access to information on quality and costs of private health-care services, the Office of Fair Trading said in a statement today. The limited number of private providers and insurers in the industry hold market power that hampers competitors from entering, it said.

“These significant concerns merit a more in-depth investigation by the Competition Commission,” OFT Chief Executive Officer John Fingleton said in the statement. “It is important that patient demand and choice are able to drive competition and innovation in this market.”

The U.K.’s state-owned National Health Service dominates the country’s medical market. Circle Holdings Ltd., a London- based private-hospital operating partnership, said today that it filed an antitrust complaint in September 2010 regarding ties between private providers and insurers that prompted the OFT’s study.

“Today’s decision will have a profound effect on U.K. health care, unleashing entrepreneurialism and unlocking innovation,” Circle CEO Ali Parsa said in the statement.

The OFT performs initial studies of antitrust questions in proposed takeovers as well as market-dominance issues. The Competition Commission has the power to block transactions or order a halt to anti-competitive practices. The U.K. plans to merge the two regulators.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in london at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net

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