NMa fines Dutch National Association of General Practitioners for illegal establishment recommendations
General practitioners should be free to decide for themselves where they want to establish their practices. The Dutch National Association of General Practitioners (LHV), however, calls on its members to restrict this freedom. The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has therefore decided to impose a fine of EUR 7,719,000 on LHV. In addition, two LHV officials are imposed personal fines of EUR 50,000 and EUR 25,000 respectively, because the NMa holds them responsible for making LHV’s recommendations to its members. Almost every GP in the Netherlands is a member of LHV.
Henk Don, member of the Board of the NMa, denounces the situation: ‘We already made clear to LHV in 2001 that it is illegal to restrict establishment options of general practitioners. With the recommendations of LHV to accept new GPs in a certain area only if the established GPs in that area agree to such an entry, the odds are very high that newcomers are not given a fair chance.’ He continues: ‘This policy not only hurts new GPs, but hurts patients and insurers as well, because they are left with fewer choices.’ And to eliminate any confusion regarding this issue, the NMa has also imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments on LHV, requiring it to inform all of its members and regional divisions that its establishment recommendations have been revoked. The NMa launched the investigation into LHV after it had received indications from alarmed GPs.
The NMa’s actions supports the government’s position on how health care should function: health care providers who perform well, innovate, and who put patients first, should be rewarded in that patients and health insurers choose them over those that perform poorly. Establishment policies such as LHV’s would only hinder this selection process.
Trade associations usually play an important and positive role in dynamic industries. They can help an industry move forward in a changing environment. However, making recommendations on establishment, prices, supply restrictions or market-sharing is not part of the range of duties a forward-looking trade association normally has, and may even constitute a violation of the Dutch Competition Act.
On January 1, 2013, the NMa will merge with the Netherlands Consumer Authority and the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority of the Netherlands (OPTA), creating a new authority: The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). This new authority aims to ensure that markets work in order to protect consumer interests. To this end, the ACM will focus on three main themes: consumer protection, industry-specific regulation, and competition oversight.