THE HAGUE (AFP) – The Dutch government late on Thursday averted a looming crisis over deficit-busting healthcare reforms that threatened to topple the centre-left ruling coalition, reaching an agreement to amend the contentious bill.
“We step-by-step worked on a solution and I am glad it has been found,” Labour Party (PvdA) leader Diederik Samsom told the NOS public broadcaster after emerging from two days of emergency talks to avert the worst crisis to hit the Dutch government since its formation in 2012.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and its junior PvdA coalition partner were thrown into disarray on Tuesday night.
A seemingly routine nod to cut healthcare costs by one billion euros ($1.2 billion), according to Dutch media reports, was voted down by three Labour senators in the 75-seat upper house of parliament.
The plan, which aims to introduce a cheaper medical insurance package by 2016 to supplement existing packages, was approved by lawmakers in the 150-seat lower house in June. It is part of the government’s plan to reduce its deficit to below three percent of gross domestic product, in line with European Union rules.
All Dutch residents are legally obliged to take out medical health insurance. But three Labour senators unexpectedly opposed the plan, which has to be approved by the upper house before it can become law.