The 2006 Enthoven-inspired Dutch health insurance reform, based on regulated competition with a mandate for individuals to purchase insurance, will interest U.S. policy makers who seek universal coverage. This ongoing experiment includes guaranteed issue, price competition for a standardized basic benefits package, community rating, sliding-scale income-based subsidies for patients, and risk equalization for insurers. Our assessment of the first two years is based on Dutch Central Bank statistics, national opinion polls, consumer surveys, and qualitative interviews with policy makers. The first lesson for the United States is that the new Dutch health insurance model may not control costs. To date, consumer premiums are increasing, and insurance companies report large losses on the basic policies. Second, regulated competition is unlikely to make voters/citizens happy; public satisfaction is not high, and perceived quality is down. Third, consumers may not behave as economic models predict, remaining responsive to price incentives. Finally, policy makers should not underestimate the opposition from health care providers who define their profession as more than simply a job. If regulated competition with individual mandates performs poorly in auspicious circumstances such as the Netherlands, how will this model fare in the United States, where access, quality, and cost challenges are even greater? Might the assumptions of economic theory not apply in the health sector?

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