The Dutch health Minister has his ideas about healthcare reform. It’s time to have your opinions heard too.

Rens Koele

Rens Koele | Consultant Public Affairs

November 5, 2019

The Dutch healthcare system, which went into effect in 2006, is peculiar and truly one of a kind. To explain it as simply as possible, one could state that it’s a private system operating within a publicly controlled and financed space; a free market healthcare system with a lot of government influence. Remarkably, it was introduced to tackle inequality within the Dutch care system, and with success. Even though cost savings haven’t been as expected, the patient experience has improved significantly1.

But it’s time for change, at least, according to the Minister of Health, Hugo de Jonge. Now is the time to give him input and be clear in your vision on the Dutch healthcare system. De Jonge is criticizing the current state of affairs in free market healthcare. This critique focuses on three aspects; the lack of quality and the abundance of profits of some healthcare suppliers and a remuneration system based on hourly rates.

Knowing his position, we can now engage in a discussion about the future of our health and healthcare infrastructure. For me personally, I believe that the Minister has it only partly right.

To tackle the care suppliers’ issue he pleas for intensive regional cooperation and a restriction on new entries of providers, thus limiting the freedom of choice. Even though it’s true that most patients are not deeply concerned about their freedom of choice in healthcare, restriction of care options has been one of the greatest factors influencing inequality in healthcare. Practice shows that individuals that can afford the highest quality healthcare will seek a better treatment elsewhere, resulting in expensive independent private initiatives popping up like mushrooms.

The government’s push for competition has turned the Netherlands into one of the most innovative healthcare countries in Europe, with 8,6% of the total R&D spent in Life Sciences & Health2. Innovation is a rocky road filled with bad ideas and failures, yet it is beneficial in many ways, in the long run, by creating room for great ideas that prevent restrictions of healthcare.

Purple Pipette
Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

My plea for innovation also correlates with the argument in which the Minister and myself actually do agree, which is that we need to rethink our remuneration system. A system that focuses on hours and not on outcomes tends to benefit from sickness and not health. We need to improve and create more room for tests, innovations, and new ideas.

Although I present you with my unrequested opinion, this does not come out of the blue. The Minister is on his campaign trail to become the front runner of the Christian Democrats (CDA). Thus he will only become more and more vocal towards the 2021 elections. It also means he will be part of many discussions on the topic. This is an opportunity  to give him input, which is also my aim through this argumentation.

Patient advocacy groups, companies, individuals and other interest groups should seize this moment. Collect your data, share your results with policy makers, take a stance on your view of the Dutch Healthcare system, and be an essential part of the discussion. This discussion with society, also within healthcare, is part of our day-to-day work at OPRG. Now is the time to engage with the Dutch government to show solutions and discuss the future of our health, just as I have done with you.