Dutch Provide Lessons On Health Reform, While Europe's Highest Court Rules For Drug Maker

In a series about the health care systems in five countries, the NewsHour examines the Netherlands and its massive health care overhaul. "When the Netherlands redesigned its national health care system in 2006, there were three main goals: continue universal coverage, unleash competition between private insurers, and keep down costs for the long run. Every citizen is required to buy a basic package that typically costs about $160 a month. The insurance companies are required to offer the same prices to all customers, regardless of age or medical history. Low-income residents have their premiums subsidized. Health care shoppers can choose to pay more for coverage, for things like dentistry, cosmetic surgery, or physiotherapy." The NewsHour interviewed Abraham Klink, the Dutch minister of health, who said: "Health care had to be accessible and affordable to everyone, but on the other hand, there had to be competition" (Suarez, 10/6).

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on a European court case supporting drug manufacturers: "Europe's highest court handed the pharmaceutical industry a victory on Tuesday, saying that regulators should reconsider whether efforts by drug makers to prevent traders from exploiting price differences across Europe should be allowed. The decision, in a case involving GlaxoSmithKline, is a blow to governments in northern Europe that like the discount trade, which helps them cut the price of medicines they buy in bulk for their national health services." Seeking to stop the discounting, Glaxo had raised prices on drugs sold in Spain that it determined would be exported, but the European Commission had rejected the move, saying it was restricting competition (Kanter, 10/6).

The Wall Street Journal also notes: "In its ruling Tuesday, the European Court of Justice upheld a lower court judgment that found the commission had inadequately examined Glaxo's request for an exemption from the antitrust rules on the grounds that the higher prices would encourage pharmaceutical research (Gordon, 10/6).

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