Balancing economic freedom against social policy principles: EC competition law and national health systems
EU Health policy exemplifies the philosophical tension between EC economic freedoms and social policy. EC competition law, like other internal market rules, could restrict national health policy options despite the subsidiarity principle. In particular, European health system reforms that incorporate elements of market competition may trigger the application of competition rules if non-economic gains in consumer welfare are not adequately accounted for. This article defines the policy and legal parameters of the debate between competition law and health policy. Using a sample of cases it analyses how the ECJ, national courts, and National Competition Authorities have applied competition laws to the health services sector in different circumstances and in different ways. It concludes by considering the implications of the convergence of recent trends in competition law enforcement and health system market reforms.
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