According to provisional figures from Statistics Netherlands, spending on health care and welfare in the Netherlands amounted to 61.5 billion euro in 2005. This is 2.8 percent more than in 2004. It is the third year in a row that the increase was smaller than in the previous year. In 2002, the increase in spending on care was still as much as 13 percent.
The increase in wage costs in care institutions was also small in 2005. In addition, the fees of most medical professionals hardly rose, and those of specialists decreased. Furthermore, in a covenant with the government care institutions have agreed to increase efficiency.
Lower specialist fees curb hospital costs
Hospitals and practices of medical specialists constitute by far the largest cost item within the care sector. Last year, 1.2 percent more was spent on this category of care. The increase was small because specialist fees were lower and the wage costs of employees rose by only a limited amount. In addition incidental extra amounts had been spent in 2004 to make up previously existing arrears in the financing of specialist medical care.
Fees of medical practices hardly up
Fees charged by professionals with their own practices (general practitioners, dentists, midwives and paramedics) hardly rose in 2005. This restricted the increase in spending on their practices to 2.1 percent. Spending on physiotherapy practices did rise considerably. Following the introduction of the experiment with free pricing, prices in this sector rose substantially. According to insurance companies, this increase was caused by physiotherapists raising their fees to a reasonable level.
Spending on drugs up again
In contrast with 2004, spending on drugs rose again in 2005. The 4.4 percent increase was mainly caused by increased use of drugs, among other things because the costs of non-prescription drugs are now repaid if they have to be use for long periods. Prices remained fairly stable because of a covenant aimed at voluntary price decreases for generic drugs and drugs for which the patent has expired.
Spending childcare down
Following years of large increases, spending on providers of childcare fell by 1.5 percent as a result of new child care legislation.
Spending on care for the disabled rose by most in the care sector: by 7.0 percent. This category received a relatively large amount from the fund for exceptional medical expenses (AWBZ), as did spending on the category mental health care, which rose by 6.6 percent.