Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Collaboration and Competition Policy in a Market-Based Hospital System: A Case Study from the Netherlands
ABSTRACT: In the Dutch healthcare system, provider competition is used as a tool to improve efficiency. From a competition policy perspective, little is known about how collaboration among healthcare providers contributes to overall patient welfare, and how a balance is achieved between scale benefits and preventing anti-competitive collusion. This paper examines the ex-post effects of a Dutch case study in which three competing hospitals have collaborated to provide high-complexity low-volume cancer surgery, an arrangement that tests the limits of permissibility under the Dutch cartel prohibition. Our preliminary empirical research demonstrated only a modest increase in price and travel time for some of the tumour surgeries. Volume analysis showed that the intended centralization of surgical procedures has not been fully realized. Our findings highlight the importance of a comprehensive self-assessment by the collaborating hospitals to ex-ante assess (potential) efficiencies and antitrust risks. Such self-assessments could benefit from research focused on which collaborations are most appropriate to achieve quality gains. For the ex-post assessment by competition authorities following the cartel prohibition, a more thorough insight into the (long-term) changes in hospital prices, profitability, and quality after collaboration is needed.