17% of the population account for 80% of healthcare spending

Health think-tank calls for unorthodox measures to cut drugs bill

Some 80% of the Dutch national healthcare budget is spent on 17% of the population, according to research by healthcare analyse group Vektis Intelligence. However, there are wide variations depending on location. In the town of Boekel in Noord-Brabant, for example, 80% of healthcare spending goes on just 14% of the population but in Roerdalen in Limburg the figure is 20%. Children account for 8% of the total healthcare bill, 44% is spent on 18 to 65-year-olds and 48% on pensioners.  More >

MPs want end to health policy cloning

Health think-tank calls for unorthodox measures to cut drugs bill Dutch MPs want the government to take action to stop health insurance companies offering identical policies for different prices. A motion drawn up by the ruling Christian Democrats and calling for action to reduce the number of cloned policies was backed by a majority of MPs in this week's debate on the health ministry budget. Last month, the Dutch consumers association Consumentenbond said around 1,000 different healthcare policies are currently being offered by 50 different insurance companies and this is creating a policy jungle. ‘All these identical policies with different names make the supply side unnecessarily confusing for consumers,’ said organisation director Bart Combée. ‘Consumers can choose from 57 different basic insurance packages but a third of them can be scrapped because they are identical to others.’ Experts say the policy jungle is one reason just 7% of people switch health insurer during the end-of-year window and this is preventing a true market developing.   The government determines the make-up of the basic policy but health insurance companies are supposed to compete on price and on conditions – such as free choice of healthcare provider.  More >

Being indoors too much is bad for eyesight

Health think-tank calls for unorthodox measures to cut drugs bill Dutch children have an increased risk of becoming short-sighted because they spend more time on computer screens and less time playing outdoors, ophthalmic professor Caroline Klaver says in Wednesday’s NRC. Half of the people in Europe in their 20s wear glasses or have contact lenses, Klaver says. And people who have glasses of -6 or more at a young age have a one in three risk of developing serious sight problems or even going blind, she told the paper. Myopia develops when the eyeball grows too long, relative to the focusing power of the cornea and lens of the eye. Klaver says short-sightedness is the biggest cause of blindness and that spending long times indoors reading or behind a screen increases the risk. ‘We have to ensure that far fewer children develop short-sightedness by making sure they are outside for two hours a day,’ she said. ‘That exposes them to a substance [dopamine] which brakes the growth.’ Schools in particular should ensure children have an hour outdoors. Research by the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam shows that 2.4% of six-year-olds are short sighted. They were also more likely to have a shortage of vitamin D, to be overweight and not to play outside.  More >

Abortion clinic waiting lists mount

Health think-tank calls for unorthodox measures to cut drugs bill The bankruptcy of abortion clinic chain Casa means women are having to wait longer and travel longer distances for an abortion, the NRC reported on Friday. The closure of the seven Casa clinics, which carried out half the abortions performed in the Netherlands every year, means Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Maastricht no longer have a specialist unit. Women are now travelling to Roermond, Utrecht and Groningen for the operation as waiting lists double to up to two weeks in places. 'We are doing what we can, but it has to be done safely and there needs to be a bed,' Thea Schipper, director of the clinic in Heemstede told the NRC. 'I have taken on two extra receptionists because the phone does not stop ringing.' Capacity Health minister Bruno Bruins told parliament last week that the remaining seven specialist clinics in the Netherlands would be able to absorb the fall out from the bankruptcy. While in the short term this may be possible, in the long term a clinic which carries out 3,000 abortions a year cannot carry out a further 1,800 on top, Schipper said. Low rate Some 30,800 abortions are carried out in the Netherlands on an annual basis and around12.5% are carried out on women who live abroad where the rules are more restrictive. However, the rate of abortions compared to live pregnancies is still one of the lowest in the world at 8.6 per 1000. Most procedures involved women aged 25 to 30 years old and in around one in 20 terminations, the foetus had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition.  More >

Cancer survival rates rise sharply

Health think-tank calls for unorthodox measures to cut drugs bill Cancer survival rates in the Netherlands have gone up across the board, the Dutch cancer centre IKNL said on Thursday. In the 1960s, 64% of people with cancer died within five years but survival rates have now doubled, the IKNL said. There has also been a sharp rise in 10-year survival rates. The results are based on information in the Dutch cancer register, which records all Dutch diagnoses. For example, the five-year breast cancer survival rate has risen from 56% to 88% while for colon cancer the rate has gone up from 40% to 52%. There has also been progress among forms of cancer which were almost always fatal - the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer has risen from 0 to 9%. The research also shows that younger patients have better survival rates than the elderly. This is because they are better able to withstand intensive courses of treatment and are less likely to have complications, such as heart problems or diabetes, the centre said. Early detection is also key to survival rates and the centre is calling for more preventative testing and better treatment in specialist cancer centres.  More >