The ACCC has authorised HCF and participating dentists to agree on a maximum price for some dental services provided to its members.
Dentists who participate in HCF's More for Teeth (MFT) program agree to cap fees to the fund's members for a limited number of basic preventative dental services at rates set by the insurer.
These include services such as comprehensive and periodic oral examination, removal of plaque and/or stain, removal of calculus and provision of a mouthguard.
HCF intends to open its own dental clinics in locations where it already runs its 'More For Teeth' program.
The authorisation allows HCF to set the same fees at its new clinics as members are charged by dentists in the More For Teeth program.
The ACCC issued a draft determination in March, proposing to grant authorisation for ten years, but the regulator has ultimately decided to authorise for five years instead.
“We carefully considered the submissions received in response to our draft determination and decided to grant authorisation because we consider the arrangement will provide a net benefit for the public by allowing HCF to provide more capped-price dental services for its members,” said ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) opposed the application. It argued the HCF members would be 'funnelled' towards the fund's own clinics, to the detriment of competing clinics, which would ultimately undermine patient care and competition.
However, according to the ACCC, “While some parties raised broader concerns about the role of insurers in dental services, the price setting we are authorising is very specific and we concluded that it is unlikely to affect competition or result in other significant public detriments.
“HCF asked the ACCC to authorise these arrangements, because setting prices at its clinics and agreeing price caps with More For Teeth dentists may otherwise breach competition laws,” added Mr Featherston.