From 2016, health insurers will no longer have to pay towards the cost of treatment at hospitals and providers with which they do not have a contract, under a deal struck between ministers and three opposition parties.
At the moment, health insurers are required by law to cover 80% of the bill for non-contract care. At the same time, a third type of health insurance policy is being introduced which gives patients no choice about where they will receive all but front line medical services.
The changes have been agreed between ministers and three opposition parties: the D66 liberals and two minor Christian parties SGP and CU. Their support will ensure the legislation is passed in the upper house of parliament.
Patients will retain the right to choose their own doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and pharmacy.
The government believes it can cut healthcare spending by giving insurance companies more power to sign contracts with providers, which it believes will force down prices and improve services. The new agreement will give ‘better care for less money,’ health minister Edith Schippers said.
There are currently two types of health insurance available.
Patients with a natura policy are only supposed to use healthcare providers who have a contract with their health insurance company. If they use a different provider, they will have to pay part of the bill themselves. The restitution policy gives patients complete freedom of choice and is more expensive.
Four big health insurance companies control 90% of the Dutch market. Under the new system, they will be able to refuse to pay bills they consider too expensive or for care which is not up to scratch. But they will also have to maintain a varied choice for patients, taking religious beliefs and lifestyle into account.
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