Government Influence on Patient Organizations

Health Care Analysis 19 (4):329-351 (2011)
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Abstract

Patient organizations increasingly play an important role in health care decision-making in Western countries. The Netherlands is one of the countries where this trend has gone furthest. In the literature some problems are identified, such as instrumental use of patient organizations by care providers, health insurers and the pharmaceutical industry. To strengthen the position of patient organizations government funding is often recommended as a solution. In this paper we analyze the ties between Dutch government and Dutch patient organizations to learn more about the effects of such a relationship between government and this part of civil society. Our study is based on official government documents and existing empirical research on patient organizations. We found that government influence on patient organizations has become quite substantial with government influencing the organizational structure of patient organizations, the activities these organizations perform and even their ideology. Financing patient organizations offers the government an important means to hold them accountable. Although the ties between patient organizations and the government enable the former to play a role that can be valued as positive by both parties, we argue that they raise problems as well which warrant a discussion on how much government influence on civil society is acceptable.

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