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Leading policy-makers and scholars explain how market forces, deregulation, and consumer choice can work to improve health care for all Americans.

Commentary

High stakes in the Hague
Johan Hjertqvist, Center for the New Europe, 10-10-05

European policymakers are having a quiet—and occasionally not so quiet, as in the recent German national elections—debate over the long-term viability of Europe’s traditional social policies, particularly regarding health care. What may be surprising to many Americans is that some European policymakers are thinking seriously about how market incentives can improve the performance of national health care systems.

Johan Hjertqvist runs a “do-tank” (as opposed to a think tank) located in Brussels called the Health Consumer Powerhouse. Hjertqvist is dedicated to improving European health care by empowering consumers with “information about the outcomes of healthcare systems,” and writes regularly on health care issues for the free-market think tank Center for the New Europe. This week, he recounts a meeting with the Netherlands Health Minister, Hans Hoogervorst:

Mr. Hoogervorst shared our dissatisfaction with the lack of medical outcomes data around Europe. Or to be correct: lack of publicly available figures, today kept deep in the closets of the medical profession and its organizations. As we could display to the minister, on the EU level you cannot compare the outcomes of diabetes (and other broad diseases) treatments as registers regarding amputation of feet, eye complications et cetera still are closed. No doubt such conditions make it very difficult for governments to implement medical guidelines – and for consumers to compare the medical standards among hospitals.

The Minister is convinced that a more competition-directed insurance system, an outcomes-related reimbursement system for providers, and a high degree of consumer choice will improve efficiency thus reducing costs (yes, he has been a minister of finance as well). …

Hjertqvist’s interesting dialogue with the Netherlands Health Minister should remind U.S. policymakers that even as they are rushing to embrace European or Canadian health care policies, European officials are trying to change them.



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