By refusing open hospital prizes, Dutch Healthcare Authority ignores consumers’ interests

With the refusal of the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa) to make hospital tariffs public, the NZa ignores consumers’ stake at the hospital prices that they pay. There is still a lack of good understanding what patients in the Netherlands are charged at hospitals, conclude Open State Foundation and FOIA-expert Brenno de Winter in the run-up to their appeal at the Council of State on November 15.

So far, the NZa defends itself with the argument that the prices of medical treatments are declared confidential commercial information. Remarkably, a number of hospitals, such as Slotervaart and the IJsselmeer hospitals have disclosed the rates they charge per treatment and insurer. And while, the Dutch Healthcare Authority considered the publication of hospital charges by health insurer CZ ‘a good step forward’. Meanwhile consumers themselves have undertaken actions to make hospital rates public.

The NZa didn’t took action when these hospitals, patients and insurers actually did make this ‘confidential’ information public. Doubts have raised on the confidentiality of this information. The NZa also claims that contracted hospital prices should remain secret for fear of higher rates, but this does not corresponds with answers to parliamentary questions given by the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport and statements made by the Authority for Consumers and Markets.

Transparency in healthcosts is crucial

‘Transparency of healthcare costs is crucial. Precisely health consumers and taxpayers should have access to the actual prices of medical treatments’, says Arjan El Fassed, director of Open State Foundation. ‘They are the ones who contribute to the public expenditure and it is this interest that is served in this case.’

‘The NZa is legally obliged to defend the interest of consumers. The NZa refusal to disclose hospital rates, makes consumers choice for healthcare provider and insurer impossible’, said Brenno de Winter, FOIA expert who assists Open State Foundation in this case. ‘The rates have little to do with reality, because it is about total budgets. The prices are only real for people themselves but they do not have the right to see the price list’.