There is an American view that the majority of European countries use single-payer healthcare systems and that they are stuck with long waiting lines and inefficient bureaucrats. The truth is far more nuanced.
The Swedish company, Health Consumer Powerhouse, has been monitoring and comparing European healthcare systems and is out with a new index that places the healthcare system of the Netherlands as the best in Europe from the perspective of the consumer.
In each nation the company looks at the information patients can receive, waiting times, medical outcomes, and the range and reach of services provided. What are the Dutch doing that helps their citizens? Primary care, and competitive health insurance:
The NL is characterized by a multitude of health insurance providers acting in competition, and being separate from caregivers/hospitals. Also, the NL probably has the best and most structured arrangement for patient organisation participation in healthcare decision and policymaking in Europe.
Also, the Dutch healthcare system has addressed one of its few traditional weak spots – Accessibility – by setting up 160 primary care centres which have open surgeries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Given the small size of the country, this should put an open clinic within easy reach for anybody.
The Dutch have only changed their healthcare system very recently, in 2006 in fact. The new system has an individual mandate with subsidies to make sure all citizens can purchase private insurance.
The Dutch experience provides yet another data-point suggesting that it will be hard to achieve sort of ideal health reform without an individual mandate to purchase private insurance.