Crisis talks in the Netherlands after health bill shot down

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2014 3:42 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Leaders in the center-right Dutch government were set to continue crisis talks on Thursday after a health bill submitted by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party was shot down in the Senate by coalition allies.

The bill, a core healthcare reform pushed by the Liberals to reduce government spending, was blocked on Tuesday by three senators in the Labour Party, leaving Rutte scrabbling to find a compromise or else face the risk of his government collapsing.

Key political figures met the prime minister late into the night on Wednesday and will resume discussions Thursday morning.

Rutte told reporters that progress had been made, adding that talks would continue in the "expectation that they could lead to a positive outcome".

The bill aims to save the government 1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) from 2016 by restricting where patients can seek treatment to hospitals with which insurers have negotiated contracts. Insurers at present have to cover procedures carried out at any hospitals or clinics, which raises health costs.

Health Minister Edith Schippers, from the prime minister's Liberal VVD party, said the bill would create better, more affordable, healthcare. However, opponents say it will limit the freedom of patients to pick their own doctors.

Rutte's government has been in power for just over two years after winning snap elections triggered by failed talks with anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders about forming a minority government with his support.

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Crispian Balmer)