Healthcare plans of Rutte III cabinet

Edition 30 November 2017, by Stephan Swai

Finally, the Third Rutte Cabinet has rolled out its healthcare plan. The plan, which touches on a couple of areas has been met with praise and dismay by different groups. First, the Government has decided not to increase own-risk deductibles next year leaving it at € 385. However, to compensate for the €150 million annual cost, the health insurance premium will increase by €10 per year. The elderly organization, ANBO, said that freezing healthcare deductibles will make no sense if one still needs to pay more money due to higher insurance premium.

2.1 billion euros will go to nursing home care to eliminate staff shortages and to help meet the new standards of quality care. The attention is also given for home-living elderly people, as the new Cabinet wants to ensure that people can rely on good care at home. In addition, €180 million is made available for the plan of “waardig ouder worden”. The own contribution for the stays in a nursing home has been slashed from 8 percent to 4 percent. This means, from 2019 there won’t be more than €250 euros of own contribution to medicine. The proposed cuts to the €188 million for Long-term care scheme (W1Z) have also been reversed.

Social Support Act (Wmo) which enables citizens to participate in society has been supported with €145 million. This money aims to reduce the burden of administrative costs in order to increase the quality of services. The Government has also proposed a €170 million for prevention and health promotion. A national prevention agreement is expected to be finalized with patient organizations, healthcare providers, health insurers, sports associations and the civil society organizations. The agreement will focus on overweight and smoking problems, together with alcohol abuse, unwanted teen pregnancies and prevention of depression and suicide. On the other hand, €40 million will be released for e-health and other new innovations in the field of healthcare. In the area of curative care, agreements on medical care, mental health, district nursing and multidisciplinary care will be finalized in 2019. These agreements are expected to yield €1.9 billion by doing away with unnecessary care while making sure that the cost of drugs are curtailed to around €460 million a year. The government also wants to recalculate the drug reimbursement system. Non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) will remain available in form of grants but will not be part of basic health insurance package. The Dutch Association of Hospitals is disappointed with the Schippers-ian measures to lower healthcare spending as it leads to poor care.

The plan calls for more transparency from health insurers and healthcare providers on the quality of the care purchased. The Government will also need more clarity on treatment rates and differences between contracted and non-contracted care. Waiting time will be another area to be looked at. Ambulatory mental health will seek cooperation from municipalities, health insurers, and healthcare providers. This cooperation will address issues related to care, support, participation, education and debt management. On the other hand, Long-Term Care (WLZ) Act will be available to all clients who need it. Youth have also received attention in the new healthcare plan. The Youth Act is being looked at, with emphasis on mental health care. Support for the transformation of the youth assistance will continue to receive attention while early detection and discussions related to suspicions of abuse and violence will be given priority in social welfare teams and youth care. Moreover, forensic knowledge in the area of child abuse will be strengthened. The Cabinet will provide €54 million for youth assistance, especially for mental healthcare where there are bottlenecks. The healthcare plan also addresses medical and ethical issues. The Government will order more research on expanding euthanasia policy and will extend embryo law while making more money available for stem cell research. However, there is no good news for Wajongers as the plan to reduce it remain. The benefit will be reduced from 75 per cent to 70 percent, with the reduction intended to encourage people to work.

However, the FNC Wajong Group declared this as upsetting move, with about 70,000 people set to be affected with additional healthcare costs. FNV Erica Hemmes said, “the adage that everyone is advancing and doing fine is not true.” The new coalition continues to pursue the policy of the Minister of Education, Schippers, to curb healthcare spending