Restrictions on entry into the health professions serve the important purpose of protecting consumers from unqualified health care practitioners. However, some times the restrictions go too far. The limits on entry to a profession govern the qualifications and skills of practitioners as well as, occasionally, the quantity and geographic locations of practices. These limits may be excessive, overly restricting competition and raising healthcare costs. Para-professionals and alternative professionals are often unduly restricted in both the types of work that they can perform and in their freedom to operate in an autonomous or semi-autonomous environment. Sometimes these restrictions are created by the professionals with whom the paraprofessionals would partially compete. Health related products, such as eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, non-prescription drugs and dentures, are sometimes made unavailable unless consumers have first undergone tests that are not directly related to the provision of the product or unless they purchase products from specific suppliers. Professional associations often introduce rules that govern the commercial behaviour of members but do not protect consumers. Rather, such restrictions raise prices to consumers and increase profits for providers. Health professional associations often seek to co-ordinate or suggest fees for their members. Such coordination typically has the effect of raising prices rather than protecting consumers from price abuses. This document comprises proceedings in the original languages of a Roundtable on Competition in the Health Sector: Enhancing Beneficial Competition in the Health Professions, which was held by Working Party N°2 of the Competition Committee in October 2004.
Enhancing Beneficial Competition in the Health Professions