It was with disbelief that we heard the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) had raided the offices of the Cyprus Medical Association (CyMA) to investigate whether it had violated competition rules in urging its members not to join Gesy. Tuesday’s raid involved the gathering of information, the CPC said in a statement, explaining that it was looking into the possibility that CyMA and its members had violated the law on the protection of competition and Article 101 of the Treaty on Operation of the EU, banning cartels and agreements that undermined competition in the European internal market.
The investigation verges on the surreal when the facts are considered. If there is one body that is against competition it is Gesy, the objective of which is to establish a healthcare monopoly. Private doctors have been invited to join Gesy, in which they will be paid the rate fixed by the Gesy monopoly for every patient they see. The fact that every person in work is obliged to contribute a percentage of their monthly salary to Gesy, even if they would rather pay for private insurance instead, is not exactly compatible with the spirit of competition.
Yet the CPC, in its wisdom, has decided to investigate the association representing private doctors for urging them not to join Gesy and thus offer some competition to it. Does it not realise there would be no competition in healthcare treatment if all doctors joined Gesy and charged the price fixed by the monopolist? If the CPC based its policy on rational thinking, instead of being carried away by Gesy-inspired populism, it would praise the CyMA stand because it ensured some competition remained in the health sector.
The reality is that CyMA acted like a union, telling its members not to join because the terms and conditions they were offered were not deemed good enough. It was perfectly within its rights to do so. We have never seen the CPC raid the offices of a public sector union when it undermines competition by urging its members to go on strike unless its terms are satisfied. Perhaps if CyMA called itself a union, the CPC would not dare investigate it for collusion.
The outrage is that the CPC has turned a blind eye to the blatant violation of competition rules by the Gesy legislation by which state hospitals will be subsidised by the state for five years, while competing with private hospitals that will have to be economically viable, without any help. And to make matters worse, Gesy has been trying to impose low rates for medical actions on private hospitals, which the latter argue would make them unviable as they will not be subsidised by the state.
This is what undermines competition, but the misguided CPC seems more interested in protecting the Gesy monopoly rather than protecting competition.