Dutch Competition Authority imposes high fines on General Practioners

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Dutch National Association of General Practitioners (‘LHV’) calls on its members to restrict the freedom to establish their practices. For this reason the Dutch 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. 

General practitioners (‘GPs’) should be free to decide for themselves where they want to establish their practices. 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. This policy not only hurts new GPs, but hurts patients and insurers as well, because they are left with fewer choices. 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on LHV, requiring it to inform all of its members and regional divisions that its establishment recommendations have been revoked.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’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. 

Currently the NMa calls special attention to the healthcare sector. The fine which is imposed on the LHV is the highest fine the NMa ever imposed on a trade association. It is even the highest fine in the healthcare-sector up to now. The NMa considers that the duration and gravity of the offense justifies the amount of the fine. The LHV is intending to make objections against the decision. The question is whether the fine stands up in court. The NMa has to reduce her fines a number of times in the past in the healthcare-sector after parties successfully made objections.