Indispensable for many: rollators in nursing homes
Photo: Tom Weller / dpa
The leading German providers of rehabilitation and nursing aids appear together in price negotiations with the health insurance companies.
This is a thorn in the side of the Federal Cartel Office.
"According to the current status of investigations, we consider the formation of a provider community from almost all relevant aid associations to be incompatible with the ban on cartels," said the President of the supervisory authority, Andreas Mundt.
The cartel office has therefore sent the working group of aid associations (ARGE) a warning in the proceedings because of joint price surcharges at the expense of the health insurance companies.
Those affected now have the opportunity to comment before the authority makes its final decision.
»It thus appears as a quasi-monopoly«
According to the Cartel Office, the ARGE, which includes the Federal Guild Association for Orthopedic Technology, groups such as rehaVital and chains such as Sanitätshaus Aktuell, represents around 80 percent of the relevant service providers for aids such as walking frames or seating aids nationwide.
“In doing so, it acts as a quasi-monopoly in its joint negotiations with the health insurance companies,” emphasized the Federal Cartel Office.
According to the Cartel Office, those involved in the ARGE had jointly demanded price surcharges from the health insurance companies and justified this with the effects of the corona pandemic, such as increased freight, delivery and raw material costs.
The surcharges were demanded as a lump sum and without factual differentiation for practically all products and services offered.
Aid providers such as medical supply stores, orthopedic technicians and others are allowed to join together to form nationwide associations in order to conduct joint negotiations with health insurance companies, said Mundt.
"But this does not legitimize any provider communities of unlimited size and monopoly-like market coverage, as is the case with the ARGE."
In the Office's view, the antitrust limit is exceeded if all the relevant associations join forces or cooperate to an extent that brings competition to an almost complete standstill.
“Prices in line with the market, which ultimately protect both sides against exploitation, can only be formed in competition,” said Mundt.