Costs of healthcare higher in the Netherlands than in Scandinavia

The Dutch government commissioned Vilans to carry out a brief examination to compare the long-term care of the Netherlands with the system of Scandinavian countries. The lower costs of their healthcare system is one of the most notable conclusions in the published report.

The Scandinavian countries are characterised as ideal welfare states and have a lot in common with the Netherlands. But it could be that they perform better in certain areas of healthcare. Policymakers in the Netherlands can gain great insight from this. This was an important reason for the research request that came from the Standing committee on Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) of the Dutch Government. Vilans researched not only costs, but other aspects of Scandinavian healthcare in comparison as well. We have outlined some of the most important conclusions in this article.

Curious about the other conclusions? The foreword and the conclusion of the rapport are available in English.

Higher costs, while lower ageing population rate

In Scandinavia there are good social benefits, solidarity with vulnerable people in society, and governments accepting a high degree of responsibility. The result is that the collective costs of care are high from an international perspective. However, in the Netherlands, the costs, specifically for care are even higher, while the rate of population ageing is lower.

Simplicity of the Scandinavian model

It seems that the simplicity of the Scandinavian model contributes to the effective use of financial resources. This in regard to the management of care and its implementation. Local governments play a significant role in healthcare, both financially and in terms of content, and are fully responsible for healthcare delivery.

Integrated approach

So local governments play an important role, but what about their integrated care system? Various examples show that governments with an integrated mission statement can make a difference in an integrated approach. In the Netherlands, we are also seeing an increase in integrated approaches to care, housing, work, education, income, entrepreneurship, transport and accessibility. Perhaps the countries can learn from this, whereby it may be relevant to see how governments can facilitate this from an administrative point of view.


Finally, Scandinavian policy also underlines the importance of technology. Technology can help to bridge the large distances in the sparsely populated areas of Scandinavia. It is well developed, partly because the government plays a strong role in this. The impression is that the Netherlands is considerably less advanced in technology than Scandinavian countries, certainly when it comes to citizens being able to use their own data. In Sweden and Denmark, for example, personal health records are already available to all citizens.

Also for policymakers in other countries

Vilans researchers hope that the conclusions of this report also find their way to healthcare policymakers in other countries. After all, solving long-term care is not only an issue in the he Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, but in other countries as well.

Also interesting to read: Reablement: a solution to the increasing demand for care

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Director Strategy and Development