Vox: “The Netherlands has universal health insurance — and it’s all private”



“The consequences of managed competition — there’s no debate, everybody just accepts it,” says Gijs van Loef, a health care consultant and sociologist who has become a prominent critic of his country’s health care. “But the Dutch health care system has fallen off its pedestal.”

Health care spending here has become a much bigger share of GDP since the switch to private insurance, though the growth has eased since the 2012 switch to global budgets. There is a fledgling critique from the left and others in the Netherlands arguing that managed competition will ultimately drive costs up while having a marginal or even deleterious effect on quality.

Gijs van Loef is a proponent of this view. He argues that managed competition is an oxymoron — that market competition and social collaboration are fundamentally at odds. He cites those rising costs and the Netherlands’ middling performance on life expectancy compared to its European peers. Is this what people are paying for?

“The concept of managed competition doesn’t work,” van Loef says. “My fundamental critique is collaboration and competition, at the operational level and system level, don’t really fit together.”

He points to the amount of bureaucracy required to manage all of the private entities that make up Dutch health care. Survey data from the Commonwealth Fund shows that Dutch doctors are more likely than physicians in most other European countries to say that dealing with insurance claims or having to report data to the government is a major problem. Dutch hospitals spend 20 percent of their budgets on administration — less than the United States, but more than the United Kingdom or Canada, which have public health insurance.


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