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Consumers could save substantially on their health insurances

Consumers are able to save substantially on the basic policies of their health insurances. This is one of the provisional conclusions of a study carried out by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) and the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa), which has been made available for consultation for the next two months.

In the study, various policies from 2016 were analyzed. In that year, basic health insurance packages that were practically the same were offered at widely diverging prices, sometimes even ones offered by the same insurer. It is expected that this year will not be any different. Since consumers need to decide before January whether or not they want to switch insurers, ACM and the NZa are now calling on consumers to pay close attention when choosing a basic health insurance package.

Preliminary analyses by ACM and the NZa have revealed that three quarters of insured in 2016 had a basic health insurance package for which there was a cheaper, comparable alternative. As a result, they paid, on average, approximately EUR 100 per year too much for the basic health insurance package.

Pay attention and save substantially

Consumers are thus able to save substantially by paying close attention and potentially by switching health insurers. On average, six percent of consumers do so every year. Over a period of ten years, 33 percent of all insured have switched at least once by now.

Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: “By offering information on consuwijzer.nl, ACM makes it easier to compare health insurances. As a result, consumers are able to save a lot of money. Furthermore, by switching, they also stimulate competition in the health insurance market, and keep health insurers on their toes.”

Switching is more difficult because of misleading differences

For consumers, switching health insurers takes time and effort, and is not as easy for everyone. Consumers have to process vast amounts of information, and make choices. They need to process information about what treatments are covered, deductibles, and the different reimbursement policies of insurers. Consumers may also worry (in most cases undeservedly so) that the same care will no longer be covered after switching. Choosing becomes even more difficult if insurers overemphasize small differences. In the study, for example, some insurers offered several policies that had very strong similarities, but which were presented as different policies by the insurers, and which differed considerably in price.

René Jansen, Member of the Executive Board of the NZa, adds: “Insurers have already taken major steps in order to make it easier for consumers to compare health insurers, for example with the so-called health insurance overview. Yet, there is still room for improvement, such as not making health insurances unnecessarily complicated, and making reimbursement rates for non-contracted care clearer and simpler.”

Consultation

Over the next two months, ACM and the NZa will make the study available for consultation. Health insurers, consumer associations and patients’ associations, and other market participants will be able to comment on the research methodology, the provisional results, and the possible solutions that ACM and the NZa propose.

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