This article describes some recent developments in health insurance in Belgium and the Netherlands. Both countries are moving towards greater financial responsibility of health insurers by means of risk-adjusted capitation payment systems. Although for the unwary observer it would appear as if both countries were following similar paths towards a common model, the authors make clear that rather different underlying rationales are driving these trends. In the Netherlands, the grand design ‘Dekker proposal’ for regulated competition has been replaced by a more gradual implementation of reforms with more limited scope. The ultimate goal remains a system of managed competition, albeit only for part of the health care services. In Belgium, prospective risk-adjusted capitation payment has always been at the heart of the original system in principle since its inception, but non-enforcement led to retrospective and inequitable financing in practice. Although the rhetoric of managed competition has never been used explicitly in any Belgian official government policy document, it seems unlikely that putting the insurers at financial risk without simultaneously also reinforcing their agency role by providing instruments for care management—like, for example, selective contracting—is viable in the longer run without jeopardizing the solvency of the insurers. The authors conclude that although the logic of the managed competition model is appealing, the lack of conclusive empirical evidence of success elsewhere makes governments reluctant to surrender their traditional cost containment tools. But making insurers financially accountable without simultaneously providing them with tools to take on the accountability seems useless and illogical.

Belgium, Health insurers, Reinforced agency role, The Netherlands, health care cost, health care policy, health insurance, prospective payment,
Health Policy
Erasmus School of Economics

Schut, F.T, & van Doorslaer, E.K.A. (1999). Towards a reinforced agency role of health insurers in Belgium and the Netherlands. Health Policy (Vol. 48, pp. 47–67). doi:10.1016/S0168-8510(99)00027-5