International journal of technology assessment in health care vol:16 issue:2 pages:325-46
The Belgian healthcare system has a Bismarck-type compulsory health insurance, covering almost the entire population, combined with private provision of care. Providers are public health services, independent pharmacists, independent ambulatory care professionals, and hospitals and geriatric care facilities. Healthcare responsibilities are shared between the national Ministries of Public Health and Social Affairs, and the Dutch-, French-, and German-speaking Community Ministries of Health. The national ministries are responsible for sickness and disability insurance, financing, determination of accreditation criteria for hospitals and heavy medical care units, and construction of new hospitals. The six sickness and disability insurance funds are responsible for reimbursing health service benefits and paying disability benefits. The system's strength is that care is highly accessible and responsive to patients. However, the healthcare system's size remained relatively uncontrolled until recently, there is an excess supply of certain types of care, and there is a large number of small hospitals. The national government created a legal framework to modernize the insurance system to control budgetary deficits. Measures for reducing healthcare expenditures include regulating healthcare supply, healthcare evaluation, medical practice organization, and hospital budgets. The need to control healthcare facilities and quality of care in hospitals led to formal procedures for opening hospitals, acquiring expensive medical equipment, and developing highly specialized services. Reforms in payment and regulation are being considered. Health technology assessment (HTA) has played little part in the reforms so far. Belgium has no formal national program for HTA. The future of HTA in Belgium depends on a changing perception by providers and policy makers that health care needs a stronger scientific base.