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Lessons on Coverage from Abroad: How Do the Dutch, German and Swiss Health Care Systems Do It?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The pre-election debate put health care reform ideas front and center. Now policymakers have to deal with translating theory into action under challenging economic conditions. Why completely reinvent the wheel when there are existing universal coverage systems that may have components the U.S. can learn from? This briefing, cosponsored by The Commonwealth Fund, provided an in-depth look at the very different approaches of Switzerland, Germany and Holland to providing near-universal coverage to their citizens.

How is coverage provided in each system? How successful is each in achieving maximum coverage? What are the roles of private insurance and government in each? What mechanisms are in place, if any, to help each system manage in difficult economic times?

Addressing these and related questions were: Robert Leu of the University of Bern, Switzerland; Reinhard Busse of the Berlin University of Technology, Germany; and Diana Monissen of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. On hand for comment and for questions were Thomas Björn Zeltner, the Swiss secretary of state for health; Michael O’Grady of the National Opinion Research Center; and Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution. Co-moderators were Lisa Swirsky of the Alliance and Robin Osborn of The Commonwealth Fund.


 Robin Osborn, The Commonwealth Fund, Moderator
 Lisa Swirsky, Alliance for Health Reform, Moderator
 Reinhard Busse, Berlin University of Technology, Speaker
 Robert Leu, University of Bern, Switzerland, Speaker
 Diana Monissen, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Speaker
 Mark McClellan, Brookings Institution, Speaker
 Michael O'Grady, National Opinion Research Center, Speaker
 Thomas Zeltner, Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, Speaker
(Click on the camera icon to see a video of the speaker's presentation.)

Transcript, Event Summary and/or Webcast and Podcast

Transcript: Lessons on Coverage from Abroad: How Do the Dutch, German and Swiss Health Care Systems Do It? (Adobe Acrobat PDF), 11/14/2008
Event Summary: Lessons on Coverage from Abroad: How Do the Dutch, German and Swiss Health Care Systems Do It? (Word Document), 11/14/2008
Full Webcast/Podcast: Lessons on Coverage from Abroad: How Do the Dutch, German and Swiss Health Care Systems Do It?

The transcript, full webcast and podcast for this briefing, as well as videos of individual speakers' presentations, are provided by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Speaker Presentations

Reinhard Busse Presentation (PowerPoint), 11/14/2008
Robert Leu Presentation (PowerPoint), 11/14/2008
Diana Monissen Presentation (PowerPoint), 11/14/2008

(If you want to download one or more slides from these presentations, contact us at info@allhealth or click here for instructions.)

Source Materials

Speaker Bios (Adobe Acrobat PDF), PDF, 11/14/2008
Sourcelist (Adobe Acrobat PDF), PDF, 11/14/2008
Lessons on Coverage from Abroad: How Do the Dutch, German and Swiss Health Care Systems Do It? (Word Document), Microsoft Word, 11/14/2008

Offsite Materials (briefing documents saved on other websites)

The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World , Cato Institute, 3/18/2008
ITL: Measuring The Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis, Commonwealth Fund, 2/1/2008
Internists Diagnose Health Care System Ills, Prescribe Remedies to Achieve Universal Coverage , American College of Physicians, 12/4/2007
Health Care Systems in Ten Developed Countries, Harris Interactive, 7/2/2008
WHO’s Fooling Who? The World Health Organization’s Problematic Ranking of Health Care Systems (Adobe Acrobat PDF),Cato Institute, 2/28/2008
Health Plans May Be ‘Universal’, But They’re Not Global, Congressional Quarterly, 9/11/2008
Why Americans Won’t tolerate Overseas Models, Politics Magazine, 10/8/2008
What We Can Learn From the Europeans, Politics Magazine, 10/8/2008
Slowing the Growth of Health Care Costs- Learning from International Experience, New England Journal of Medicine, 10/23/2008
After-Hours Doctor Calls Save Holland Money, NPR, 7/17/2008
Health Clinic Treats Germany’s Few Uninsured, NPR, 7/4/2008
In Switzerland, A Health Care Model For America?, NPR, 7/31/2008
In The U.S. And Holland, Diabetes Looks Different, NPR, 7/16/2008
Keeping German Doctors On A Budget Lowers Costs, NPR, 7/2/2008
Most Patients Happy With German Health Care, NPR, 7/3/2008
Netherlands’ Health Care Reflects National Values, NPR, 7/17/2008
Universal Mandatory Health Insurance In The Netherlands: A Model For The United States?, Health Affairs, 5/8/2008
Dutch Health Care Performance Report 2008, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, 11/14/2008
Shepherding Major Health System Reforms: A Conversation With German Health Minister , Health Affairs, 4/8/2008
A Living Model Of Managed Competition: A Conversation With Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink, Health Affairs, 4/8/2008
Health Spending In OECD Countries: Obtaining Value Per Dollar, Health Affairs, 11/8/2008
Why Not the Best? Results from the National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance, 2008 , Commonwealth Fund, 7/17/2008
In Chronic Condition: Experiences of Patients With Complex Health Care Needs, In Eight Countrie, Health Affairs, 11/13/2008


Dr. Reinhard Busse of the Berlin University of Technology describes the German health care system, with its mix of mandated and voluntary insurance. (10 min.) From the Nov. 14 briefing cosponsored by The Commonwealth Fund. Video courtesy of


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