An Ethical Analysis of International Health Priority-Setting
In the light of experience that choices in health care appear to be not so much hindered by a lack of insight into how choices should be made in theory, as uncertainty as to how choices could be made in practice, this paper sets out to deepen our insight into the dynamics of health care policy making within the concrete socio-economic and political context. The paper examines how Dutch policy-makers have dealt with the priority issue in health care over the past 10 years by means of a gradual incremental approach. In this approach, use is made of a mix of strategies and shared responsibilities, with an important role for the actors at the meso and the micro levels; while at the same time, the government has not abandoned the tried and trusted policy of national rationing (i.e. keeping the production capacity limited and setting a ceiling on production in order to resist the pressure on the public system of Dutch health care). Looking at the declining percentage of Gross National Product assigned to health care annually, the broad accessibility and the good overall quality of Dutch health care, it may be concluded that the issue of choice has not come off badly under this mixed approach. The degree to which the system can respond adequately to likely developments, such as a recession, worsening waiting lists, further liberalisation (i.e. the application of market forces in health care) and, by way of extension, the ongoing integration of 'Europe' is questioned.