Leavitt To Study Dutch, Swiss Health Systems in Trip Abroad
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt next month will travel to Switzerland and the Netherlands to examine their health care systems, the New York Times reports.
Under the systems, all residents must obtain health insurance or pay a fine. Employers do not have to offer health insurance to employees, and private health insurers and hospitals provide care to residents.
According to HHS officials, Leavitt decided to take the trip because U.S. policy experts have promoted the health care systems in Switzerland and the Netherlands as models for reform.
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) have announced health care proposals that "borrow heavily" from the systems in Switzerland and the Netherlands, according to the Times. In addition, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) have introduced a health care reform bill in large part modeled on the system in the Netherlands.
An HHS official said, "We have been hearing a lot ... about how those two countries had been doing new things in health access, and the secretary wanted to get a closer look at what they're doing." The official added, "We don't have anything cooking that we haven't announced. We would not endorse a system like the Netherlands or Switzerland's. But if there's something we could learn about their system, we should learn about it."
In related news, America's Health Insurance Plans on Wednesday will host a luncheon during which officials with health insurers in Switzerland and the Netherlands will discuss the health care systems of the nations.
Susan Pisano, an AHIP spokesperson, said, "The only models we seem to focus on here are those in Canada and Great Britain, which both have government-run systems," adding, "We thought it made sense to look at two countries that have universal coverage but rely on the private sector to get there" (Harris, New York Times, 10/30).