Opinion: A fine for patients

POSTED: 11/8/11 6:16 PM

The VVD is a so-called liberal party. Other than in the United States, where liberal is considered leftwing, the VVD is a rightwing party. VVD stands for Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy).
This party now intends to curb the freedom of patients in the Dutch healthcare system in a democratic way. It’s almost poetic.
When the parliament handles the budget for the Public Health Ministry this week, the VVD will propose that patients who fail to show up for a doctor’s appointment have to pay a €150 ($206) fine. For missing an appointment for expensive surgery, patients have to pay 75 percent of the tab, if the VVD gets its way. The party also wants to give doctors the right to stop the treatment of patients who are aggressive towards them.
All this is inspired by the need to cut cost. VVD MP Anne Mulder, who will present the proposals in the parliament said that doctors don’t have to put up with swearing and physically abusive patients. He wants to make an exception for people who need urgent medical attention, saying that the purpose of the plan is not to let people bleed to death.
Hmm, how humane, that last part, though we don’t expect heavily bleeding patients are in the mood to hit their doctor. They may come up with a couple of four-letter words though, depending on how they came by the injuries that landed them in hospital.
The idea to fine patients for missing a doctor’s appointment feels wrong, and we’d be surprised if the Dutch parliament would pass it. What about patients who have to wait for hours past their scheduled appointment? Do doctors get a fine for that as well?
Apart from these rather weird ideas, the VVD does have a point that people are responsible for their own life style, and for its consequences. We like that idea.
Starting next year, Public Health Minister Edith Schippers (also a VVD-member) has taken compensation for helping smokers to kick their habit out of the basic health insurance package.
That does not go far enough, according to Mulder. Treatment to combat overweight or excessive alcohol use should not be covered by insurance either, he argues.
That tallies with the thought that people are responsible for their own lifestyle. Mulder also wants to take the so-called rollator (a device used by people who have trouble walking on their own) and compensation for hearing aids out of the insurance.
The last item could become costly over time, once all the youngsters who are now blasting their ears with music from their electronic gadgets start to have trouble hearing anything at all. In that sense, ditching compensation for hearing aids makes sense. The only item that does not belong in this line-up is the rollator.
If people are responsible for their own lifestyle, are they then not also responsible for their own illnesses? That’s probably the next step for the VVD. It is consistent with its line of thinking and it will justify taking everything out of the basic healthcare insurance. We doubt though, that the party will win a lot of votes at the next election with such a measure.

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