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Netherlands Health System Balances Cost With Quality

In the last of a series on health care in the Netherlands, Ray Suarez reports on how the European country maintains low health care costs while delivering a high standard of care.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Late today, the Congressional Budget Office offered its estimate for the Senate Finance Committee plan. The total bill will be about $830 billion over 10 years and will reduce the budget deficit by $81 billion.

    Committee Chair Max Baucus had this to say.

  • SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-Mont.:

    Soon it will come down to the Senate. My colleagues, this will be our opportunity to make history. Just think of it. Our actions here will determine whether we will extend the blessings of better health care to more Americans or not. Ours is a balanced plan that could pass the Senate. Our bill should win the support of Republicans and Democrats alike. And now the choice is up to senators.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, cost-cutting abroad. Last night, Ray Suarez began his reporting on the approach in the Netherlands. Here's Ray's part two.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    When the Netherlands reformed its health care system four years ago, everyone over 18 was required to buy coverage from a private insurance company. In turn, the insurers were required to accept every customer and offer the same price, regardless of age or medical history.

    The Netherlands faces two challenges: strong expectations of continued high-quality care and a graying population that's entering a very expensive time of life for health care at the same time. So how do you keep costs down?

    One way to keep costs down: keep people healthy, particularly people who are approaching retirement, like Frans Doppegieter.

    Last spring, Doppegieter was diagnosed with type-two diabetes, a condition that can lead to more serious health problems and much greater expense, if not properly controlled, conditions like heart disease, failing eyesight, and the threat of lost limbs.

    To keep patients like Frans healthy, insurance companies now offer incentive lifestyle programs, even pay for gym memberships. Roger van Boxtel is CEO for Menzis Insurance.

    ROGER VAN BOXTEL, chief executive officer, Menzis Insurance: We make programs for how to quit smoking, how to train your body, how to eat healthy, and we see more and more interest with our insured to deal with these programs. It's individually. Many times, you can use Internet and the doctor behind it. It's confidential. People are willing to work on their own health care, and that's something we have to promote.

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