Healthcare after 15 March: what will remain the same, what might change?

With the ink on the election programmes barely dry and members expecting to force changes during the upcoming conferences of the political parties, is it too soon to predict where the country is heading after 15 March 2017? Not at all, some broad conclusions can already be drawn. Like in healthcare. Much has already been said about whether or not to maintain the system and the own risk. But what does the political establishment have in store when it comes to other important themes, such as prevention, care innovation and private capital? And will be the parties be paying due attention to the latest healthcare issue – cybercrime?

Fat and sugar: a time for choices
VVD (right-wing liberals) wants to control healthcare costs by stimulating a healthier lifestyle, especially by ensuring that sufficient information is available to youths. The liberals are not expected to introduce enforcement measures, however: “We want to retain the current age limits for alcohol and tobacco. We do not want to introduce fat or sugar taxes or patronising labels to influence behaviour.”

But potential coalition partners of VVD hold (significantly) different opinions. Take D66; also liberal, but clearly more inclined to apply soft pressure when it comes to prevention. The party advocates an active food policy “… teaching healthy patterns during the early years through better nutritional information, protecting children against marketing and impulse buying of unhealthy products, and giving adults sufficient choice, in company restaurants, for example”.

D66 has no official position as regards sugar and fat tax. CDA (Christian Democrats), does, however: it wants to ban sugary drinks from schools, and come to binding agreements on reducing sugar, salt and fat in food products, “… for example, by introducing a sugar tax”. PvdA (Social Democrats), on the other hand, leaves it more open and raises the discussion to EU level: “A greater commitment is needed among the European partners to reduce the level of sugar, salt, artificial additives and saturated fats in our food. Together with the food industry, we want to reach conclusive agreements on healthier food”. GroenLinks (GreenLeft) too is less strict than CDA, although the party does not shy from a threat: “If the current covenants do not lead to a healthier product range, statutory standards will be introduced to regulate the maximum level of salt, sugar and fat in products”.

Opportunities for healthcare innovation
Many programmes applaud technical innovations, such as e-health applications for monitoring, diagnosis and data management – they might prevent an extra visit to the hospital. D66 devotes most attention to this and even states explicitly in its election programme: “Innovation offers all kinds of opportunity for the business community”. This party wants the Netherlands to lead the field in healthcare innovation, and wants to stimulate care providers to make more use of e-health solutions, such as patient portals and apps.

No private capital in health care
Of all the parties, only VVD and D66 are for attracting private healthcare investors. D66 would “under conditions” accept private capital in innovative healthcare, “… also because new investors can be an important source of innovation”. VVD is even more adamant: to ensure that healthcare in the Netherlands “becomes better every day”, it must be more attractive for private investors to invest in healthcare. “We can enable this by changing the law to allow the payment of return on those investments to investors”.

It does not, however, seem very likely that the two liberal parties will get their way when it comes to attracting private capital in healthcare. PvdA, SP (Socialists), GroenLinks and ChristenUnie (Christian Union) are vehemently opposed, but also CDA has, in this sense, shifted to the left: “To further curtail market forces in the healthcare sector, we want a ban on profit payments by healthcare insurers, healthcare institutions and hospitals. Money that is intended for healthcare must remain in healthcare or should lead to lower premiums and may not disappear as profit in the pockets of investors or shareholders”, says the CDA programme.

Cybercrime: the new healthcare issue?
In short: even though the elections are still four months away, probably followed by a long period of government formation, the position of the next government on healthcare already appears clear. But the government will also have to respond to fast upcoming social issues for which the parties have not yet formulated a policy. For example, the fact that cyber criminals are rapidly expanding their activities from the financial to the medical sector. While stolen intellectual property from pharmaceutical and biotech companies are a prime target, patient data is also coming under threat. Cybercrime: typically a subject that requires attention not only from the sector, but also government intervention.

 

This is a translation of the blog that was posted on the website of the trade journal Zorgvisie.