Saturday 13 August 2022

Restricting patient choice of doctors not illegal, says advisory body

Health insurance companies are not breaking European law by restricting patient choice to doctors with whom they have a contract, according to the Council of State, the Netherlands’ highest legal body.

Citizens can choose from a wide variety of insurance policies and do not have to accept one which limits this choice, the Council of State is quoted as saying in the Volkskrant.

The Council had been asked to look into the issue by the senate, which is currently examining legislation which will stop the automatic right to freedom of choice in healthcare.

Emergency

The legislation says insurance companies will only have to pay for treatment with medical specialists they have a contract with – apart from first-line help such as a family doctor or in case of an emergency.

This means patients who are referred to a specialist by their doctor will first have to check if their insurance policy will pick up the bill.

Health insurance companies are developing cheaper policies which only cover treatment by a limited pool of healthcare professionals and with a limited number of hospitals.

Europe

The change will also have an impact on the right of people to be treated for non-emergency situations in other European Union countries, the Volkskrant says. This may have a particular impact on people living on the Belgian and German borders, the council said.

However, the council emphasised the need for proper monitoring by both the consumer authority ACM and the healthcare authority NZA. The NZA has been under fire in recent months for failing to act independently.

 

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