Thursday 25 February 2021

Healthcare market has gone ‘too far’, says Dutch health minister

The use of market forces in the healthcare system has gone too far and needs to be limited, health minister Hugo de Jonge says in an interview with Friday’s AD.

Without limits it will be too difficult to organise and pay for good care in the future, De Jonge said.

For example, the ‘absolute’ right patients have to choose their own healthcare provider makes organising the system difficult and expensive, he said. New providers, often of dubious quality, are appearing all over the place and the tradition of paying by the hour encourages providers to drag out treatment processes.

‘It is an unhealthy cocktail,’ the minister told the AD. ‘Healthcare needs less market and more alliances, otherwise we won’t be able to keep going.’

De Jonge says he wants to introduce tougher controls on new healthcare providers and to establish teams of district nurses who are no longer paid by the hour. He also plans to lobby Brussels to relax the rules on putting care contracts out to tender.


The AD points out that the minister’s comments are politically interesting, given that the CDA, his party, is in a coalition with two liberal parties which back market liberalisation.

In addition, market forces were first introduced into the Dutch healthcare system by a CDA-led cabinet in 2006, which introduced competition between providers and allowed specialists to set their own fees.


Nevertheless, De Jonge told the AD all parties understand that healthcare costs are rising and that the shortage of personnel is beginning to bite. That is why they will put their ideological convictions to one side and focus on practical solutions, he said.

The minister’s position is the third time in a few days that the government has taken action to stem market forces. Last week it emerged that the former state post monopoly PostNL is to merge with its only serious rival – with government backing.

And earlier this week the government bought a stake in Air France-KLM to be better able to influence decisions made by the privatised airline group.

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