The role of the sickness funds in the Belgian health care market
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This article reviews some of the salient features of the Belgian health care finance and delivery system. Special attention is paid to the role played by the third-party payers, i.e. the Health Insurance Associations (HIAs) in administering the compulsory national health insurance program. It is shown how, despite extensive government regulation, the markets for GP, specialist and hospital services exhibit fierce competition of the non-price variety. Next, the paper considers the three problems perceived to be the most pressing ones at present: (i) the problem of raising sufficient revenues to cover the public share of health expenditures; (ii) the (related) cost containment problem; and (iii) the problem of ensuring efficiency through appropriate incentive mechanisms. Finally, two recently proposed options for reform are discussed and complemented with a third proposal based on the ideas of regulated competition. It is concluded that strengthening the role of the third-party payers remains crucial in any attempt to reshape the system to make it efficient and affordable while keeping it equitable.
- health insurance
- health care