Fewer Dutch patients seek psychiatric treatment since user fees implemented

Fewer patients in the Netherlands sought help at psychiatric treatment centers this year. A number of treatment centers have reported decreases in new between 12.5% to 50% in comparison to last year.

Since the start of the year, the government has introduced a mandatory user fee of €200 per year for outpatient speciality psychiatric care, and €145 per month for inpatient admissions. The Ministry of Health has also reduced treatment fees, reduced the number of funded psychology appointments and introduced a fee for missed appointments. The government indicated that they will be seeking savings of €226 million in speciality psychiatric care this year.

mental_health_budgetA representative from the Ministry of Health defended the user fees by saying “This stimulates patients to seek treatment in primary care, which is cheaper, and discourages treatment of less serious issues in expensive specialty care.” Research is currently underway to determine if the introduction of the user fees is perceived as a barrier by patients.

At least one insurer in the Netherlands has refused to implement the fee for psychiatric treatment, in the belief that “early availability of services can prevent later admissions or the need for long term treatment.”

R. Heijink et al. Health Policy. 88(2008), 49–6
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