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ACM: Health insurers are allowed to give health care providers financial support collectively during Coronavirus crisis

21-04-2020

Health insurers are allowed to make collective arrangements to provide financial support to health care providers during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. More specifically, these arrangements concern continuity contributions and advances on payments to health care providers that are not directly involved in helping Coronavirus patients. With these arrangements, providers who currently have less or no work due to the Coronavirus crisis, such as physical therapists, maternity support workers, and district-nursing providers, are able to receive financial support. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has approved these arrangements, because health care must continue during and after the crisis.

Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘The thought alone of parts of the health care system collapsing because providers are unable to keep their heads above water is simply terrifying. Not only would that cause harm in the short term, but also in the longer term. That is why it is so crucial to give health care providers financial support now. Health insurers can do this collectively for the simple fact that health care providers have contracts with different health insurers. In this way, all health insurers will be able to meet their duty of care, even after the crisis, and the insured will continue to have access to sufficient, high-quality, and affordable health care.’

Financial support from health insurers

Health care providers that are not directly involved in helping Coronavirus patients currently have less or even no work at all. This is the result of the nationwide measures taken to deal with the Coronavirus crisis. The continuity contribution is a generic scheme, based on a fixed percentage of the turnover that comes from the health insurer. With these contributions, the health care providers are able to pay most of their fixed expenses, for example, housing costs and personnel costs. And they can also continue to pay any independent contractors and subcontractors that they have hired. If their financial need is pressing, health insurers can give care providers an advance on their payments. In addition, health insurers can always provide additional financial support in individual cases.

Cooperation is necessary for making the scheme effective

The joint health insurers have consulted ACM about what opportunities they have for making any arrangements regarding support measures, with an eye to competition rules. ACM has ruled that such cooperation among health insurers is needed for continuing health care during and after the crisis. That is because health care providers get their revenues from different health insurers. Without these collective support measures of the health insurers, there is a risk that, for some health care providers, this help will come too late or not be sufficient for them to be able to continue after the crisis.

Together, the health insurers are able to come up quickly with a scheme that is feasible and effective. In that context, ACM sets great store to the health insurers commissioning an independent agency to calculate the amount of the contribution. In addition, individual health insurers can always do more to help health care providers. The arrangements made by the health insurers are minimum arrangements. Moreover, as these arrangements are temporary and do not go beyond what is necessary, they stay within the statutory frameworks.

Working together in these extraordinary times

In times like these, it is important that all parties involved work together in a constructive manner, keeping in mind their common interests in the short term and long term. ACM does its part by ensuring that markets continue to work well for people and businesses. In that context, businesses are given room and have ACM’s trust, but ACM also remains vigilant.