The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has decided to allow individual General Practitioners (GPs) working in shared practices to set prices and collectively bargain. In general, GPs in a practice are technically competitors and setting agreed prices for their practice may breach the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Authorisation expands the types of practices that can set prices for GPs and which can collectively bargain in relation to visiting medical officer (VMO) services or Medicare Local services.
“The ACCC considers that if a group of GPs operates as a single practice, the likely benefits of permitting practice-wide price setting are likely to outweigh any public detriments. For example patients will know the fees they are likely to be charged, regardless of which particular doctor they see in the practice,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
There are approximately 25,000 general practitioners in Australia that operate practices under a wide variety of business structures. The authorised arrangements are similar to the authorisations previously granted to Royal Australian College of General Practitioners members, which lapsed on 14 June 2011.
“The ACCC has granted authorisation for five years to all GPs, not just Australian Medical Association members, who meet the relevant business structure criteria to allow them to collectively bargain with VMOs and Medicare Locals and set prices in their practice.”
Authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment.