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Belgium: Enhancing the Cost Efficiency and Flexibility of the Health Sector to Adjust to Population Ageing

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  • Stéphane Sorbe

Abstract

Belgium has a good record in delivering accessible care, but adaptation to population ageing will be complicated by the fragmentation of responsibilities in the healthcare system and a strong reliance on government regulations. The organisation of the system could be rationalised by giving sickness funds a more active role as promoters of cost-efficiency, better aligning the incentives of the different levels of government and focussing on medium-term budgeting. At the level of care providers, better information flows and incentive structures could facilitate addressing practice and efficiency variations and supplier-induced demand. This notably involves completing the shift to pathology-based budgets in hospitals, more capitation in the remuneration of doctors and measures to tackle the high spending on drugs. Once incentives for cost-efficiency are in place, a shift towards a more demand-driven system could be encouraged by phasing out over-prescriptive hospital regulations. In addition, relative remunerations of doctors should be revised regularly to ensure an adequate supply per specialty. In long-term care, home care, which is generally cost-efficient, could be further encouraged by giving more autonomy to patients to organise their care. This Working Paper relates to the 2013 OECD Economic Survey of Belgium (www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/belgium). Belgique : améliorer l'efficience et la flexibilité du secteur de la santé pour s'adapter au vieillissement de la population La Belgique a su se doter de services de santé accessibles, mais le morcellement des responsabilités au sein du système et le poids de la réglementation risquent de rendre l’adaptation au vieillissement de la population difficile. Le système pourrait être organisé plus simplement en donnant aux caisses d’assurance maladie (mutualités) un rôle plus actif dans l’amélioration de l’efficience, en alignant mieux les incitations des différents niveaux d’administration et en mettant l’accent sur la budgétisation à moyen terme. Au niveau des prestataires de santé, une meilleure circulation de l’information et de meilleures structures incitatives pourraient contribuer à atténuer les variations en termes de pratiques et d’efficience, ainsi qu’à lutter contre la demande induite par les prestataires eux-mêmes. Pour ce faire, il s’agit notamment d’achever la transition vers des budgets hospitaliers fondés sur les pathologies, d’augmenter la part de la rémunération forfaitaire des médecins et de mettre en place des mesures visant à diminuer le niveau élevé des dépenses en médicaments. Une fois que des mesures destinées à améliorer l’efficience seront en place, l’adoption d’un système davantage axé sur la demande pourrait être encouragée en supprimant progressivement les règles hospitalières excessivement normatives. En outre, les rémunérations relatives des médecins devraient être révisées régulièrement afin d’obtenir une offre adaptée dans chaque domaine de spécialité. S’agissant des soins de longue durée, la prise en charge à domicile, qui est globalement efficace au regard de son coût, pourrait être encore plus encouragée en laissant les patients organiser plus librement les soins dont ils bénéficient. Ce Document de travail se rapporte à l’Étude économique de l’OCDE de la Belgique, 2013 (www.oecd.org/eco/etudes/belgique).

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 1066.

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Date of creation: 25 Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:1066-en

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Keywords: health; Belgium; population ageing; long-term care; hospital; pharmaceuticals; sickness funds; santé; médicaments; caisses d’assurance maladie (mutualités); Belgique; vieillissement de la population; soins de longue durée;

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