HPA Group ordered to pay 8 million euros by the Competition Authority

Hospital Particular do Algarve refutes the accusation

The Competition Authority sentenced Hospital Particular do Algarve to pay almost 9 million euros, as a penalty for "a concerted practice, restrictive of competition, in the contracting of hospital health services by the public health subsystem ADSE", in a process which involved several private health groups.

In addition to the HPA, which has already gone public to «refute the accusation», the Portuguese Association for Private Hospitalization (APHP), the Lusíadas Group (Lusíadas SGPS, SA and Lusíadas, SA), which also has in the region (34 million euros), Grupo Trofa, Grupo Mello and Luz Saúde.

Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve, in a press release, refuted «the understanding underlying the sanctioning decision of the Competition Authority, so we will exercise all the rights that the Law grants us in this area, reiterating our posture of compliance with the Law and cooperation with the regulators'.

«In fact, the history of our hospital group is particularly illuminating regarding the constructive participation of the HPA Saúde Group in the search and provision of solutions for the health sector, in peripheral regions in relation to large urban centers, maintaining high standards of quality and a oriented and patient-centered health care delivery policy», assures the HPA.

It is certain that the Competition Authority says it has concluded “that the aforementioned health groups coordinated the strategy and the negotiating position to be adopted within the scope of the negotiations with the ADSE, through and with the joint participation of the APHP, between 2014 and 2019” .

'The concerted practice in question aimed at fixing the level of prices and other commercial conditions, in the context of negotiations with ADSE, by the aforementioned health groups. Likewise, it aimed to coordinate the suspension and threat of termination of the agreement signed with ADSE to hinder the regularization of invoicing by ADSE for 2015 and 2016”, added the same entity.

With this way of acting, the targeted health groups, «through and with the joint participation of APHP», were able to «press ADSE to accept prices and other commercial conditions more favorable to those groups than those that would result from individual negotiations within the scope of of the normal functioning of the market. In this way, acting together, they obtained a substantial reduction in the negotiating power of ADSE».

The Competition Authority emphasizes that the suspension and threat of termination of the agreement entered into with ADSE “would only exert sufficient pressure on the ADSE health subsystem if adopted jointly by the majority of these health groups, as only then would it be possible to significantly limit access of beneficiaries to the provision of health care through the ADSE network (agreed regime), forcing the beneficiaries to resort to the free regime of the subsystem (more penalizing for the beneficiaries and more advantageous for the referred hospitals)».

This process was opened in March 2019, «following several complaints and news published by the media, and in May of the same year the AdC carried out search and seizure procedures at the premises of the aforementioned companies, located in Lisbon, Portimão. and Porto».

With regard to sanctions, the HPA was ordered to pay exactly 8.818.000 euros, a sum that, even so, falls far short of what Grupo Mello will have to pay (74 million euros) and Luz Saúde (66 millions of euros).