‘Market working’ in health care system will lead to European interference

12 October 2005

‘Market working’ in health care system will lead to European interference

The new system of health insurance will probably encounter resistance from Brussels, according to SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer: “The system finds itself in a grey area between state and market, and experience teaches us that the EU prefers to get rid of the public element as rapidly as possible.” Mr Meijer has put a question on the matter to the European Commission, asking to what extent the health care system conflicts with European rules.

Erik Meijer“It's possible that the Netherlands could find at any moment that a clear choice must be made: should we hand health insurance completely over to the free market with everything that would entail, or would we prefer a public insurance system?” Mr Meijer said. European competition rules and attempts to go over to a completely free market do not easily fit with certain provisions of our new insurance system. A duty to accept a client and compulsory participation in a settlement fund are obstructions to the functioning of the market aspects. The exclusion of foreign firms from the market is unlikely to be greeted with much enthusiasm in Brussels.

Meijer: “Naturally we are not raising these matters with the European Commission because we want the Union to force the Netherlands to open the system to a complete free market. But we are afraid that others will eventually do just that. If a European judge makes mincemeat of the so-called 'market disturbance' in the system the whole system will fall prey to competing European insurance companies and we will entirely lose our grip on it.” The SP supports a wholly public system of health care.

European interference in the new system is in the long run scarcely out of the question. As Erik Meijer says “You saw the same thing when it came to housing associations – half market and half public, and for that reason it came under fire. The same went for the Irish system of Voluntary Health Insurance, the VHI.” The SP is advising the government to take the whole business back into public ownership, rather than allowing it all to fall into private hands.

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