Health Minister and AmCham Discuss Crucial Reforms and Innovations
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Minister for the Interior and Health, at AmCham's "Meet The Leaders" event on September 15, at Scandic Hotel.
Members of the Pharmaceutical Committee attended the event and posed questions to the minister in the Q&A session.

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Unfolding reforms and innovations are improving Denmark’s health care system, a key government minister told members of AmCham, which recently identified the issue as crucial for foreign investors.

Danish Interior and Health Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that while he “doesn’t completely agree” with everything in the “AmCham Denmark 2006 Healthcare Policy Agenda,” he appreciates a foreign perspective.

The agenda, released in June 2006, detailed a number of Danish health care issues and made recommendations (See the links accompanying this article for details). Among other things, the agenda urged law makers to consider health care as an investment, not as a cost; and argued that a more innovative health care system would help attract more foreign investors to Denmark. Rasmussen acknowledged these findings, but countered that the government must balance innovation with costs; and has already innovated the system by expanding patients’ choices.


Rasmussen said that the government’s Danish Quality Model program is making needed reforms. It consolidates local municipalities, boiling them down into fewer, regional authorities; aims to increase health care access and quality; and makes the health care system more financially sustainable. There are three key health care strategies, the minister said:

  • A centralized, consolidated hospital structure
  • Preventive measures, and identifying and treating symptoms early
  • A more open, clear and patient-oriented health care system

To carry out those things, Denmark must educate and empower patients more than ever before, link hospital budgeting to productivity, steer backlogged patients to private clinics and cover their treatments at those clinics, and increase the capacity of private health care facilities. In another reform starting on January 1, 2007, local municipalities will be required to provide a percentage of the total health care budget: this will dampen knee-jerk opposition to the shutdowns of local hospitals, according to the minister. Danes prefer health care quality over quantity anyway; in other words, having fewer but more fully equipped and capable facilities will fly here, Rasmussen said.

The Track Record

The minister said he is optimistic that progress can be made, based on the track record. When the Danish government’s current center-right coalition took power in 2001, waiting times for treatment were the biggest health care issue, said Rasmussen. Waiting times have been slashed, due to the government providing more funding– but with performance incentives–to health agencies, and allowing funding for private health care agencies, he argued. Five years later, the improvements have now moved the health care debate to quality reforms, according to the minister.

Related Topics

Rasmussen also said:

  • Advertising by doctors and clinics, closely regulated by European Community anyway, would seem to be a double-edge sword: he does not oppose such advertising and it could spur more choice and even innovation, but money spent on advertised treatments, services and medicines will come out of taxpayers’ pockets.
  • Centralizing will improve primary and chronic care, and will enable more general practitioners to improve their skills and take additional training.
  • Launching more public-private initiatives, such as centers of excellence and specialized hospitals, could make Denmark and the Øresund region more of an international health care hub. But there has been skepticism in Denmark about such initiatives in this sector.

Rasmussen predicted that there will be half as many hospitals in Denmark– but more quality and efficiency nonetheless–10 years from now. He also predicted that while Danish health care “will be more in tune with changes” in the future, containing costs will continue to be a priority, “and I drive a very hard bargain.”

He added that law makers are looking to the private sector for input on how to innovate and compete in this area: “You should participate in the debate. Why not?”

For more on Denmark’s health care reforms, see:



Visit the Pharmaceutical Committee to download "AmCham Denmark 2006 Healthcare Policy Agenda".

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