COVID-19 and Price-Gouging by Private Medical Facilities

COVID-19 has continued to hold sway as a pandemic on public health and healthcare. While other parts of the globe were into fourth and fifth waves as of mid-2021, Uganda was hit with its second wave of the pandemic that resulted in country-wide lockdown (and shelter-in-place) measures from June 26, 2021 to July 30, 2021.

Article No 2/2021 of the ALP Law Review Series addresses a troubling facet of COVID-19 pandemic as it continues to have a sway on life and human survival—that is, the cost of hospitalization and treatment. It assesses the high costs of COVID-19 treatment and care in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic in Uganda in light of what has been viewed as excessive pricing—or worse, price-gouging—and profiteering on the part of private medical facilities. It poses questions whether the high costs of treatment and care amount to undesirable practices and abuse of dominant position on the part of the private medical facilities and, if so, whether Uganda should, after decades of foot-dragging, enact and put in place a competition law and regulatory framework.

The article explores Uganda’s regulatory framework for pricing for health services and protection of patients, in particular its Public Health Act, and how the shortcoming of the regulatory framework are highlighted in orders issued by the High Court in Moses Mulumba & Another v. Attorney General & 2 Others, a matter filed in the wake of the public outcry over the high COVID-19 healthcare fees. Further, it looks at experiences in other common law countries, particularly South Africa, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, in their use of competition law (and regulatory authorities) to address cooperation amongst healthcare providers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time deal with excessive pricing, price-gouging and the abuse of dominant position as anti-competition practices.

The detailed Article No 2/2021 is available for download as a PDF file here.