A new Commonwealth Fund study says that policies in the Switzerland and Netherlands that achieve near-universal coverage and low administrative costs can help inform the U.S. health care reform debate.
As the United States resumes debate over options for achieving universal health coverage, policymakers are once again examining insurance systems in other industrialized countries. More recent attention has focused on countries that combine universal coverage with private insurance and regulated market competition. Switzerland and the Netherlands, in particular, have drawn attention for their use of individual mandates combined with public oversight of insurance markets. This paper provides an overview of the Swiss and Dutch insurance systems, which embody some of the same concepts that have guided health reforms adopted in Massachusetts and considered by other states and by federal policymakers. The two systems have many features in common: an individual mandate, standardized basic benefits, a tightly regulated insurance market, and funding schemes that make coverage affordable for low- and middle-income families. Differences include degree of centralization, basis of competition among insurers, availability of managed care, and reliance on patient cost-sharing to influence care-seeking behavior.