Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/02/2014 -- The Belgian market for medical equipment and supplies is valued at US$2.2 billion in 2012, equal to US$207 per capita.
With GDP per capita in the region of US$43,600 in 2013, Belgium is one of the wealthier EU countries and has one of the most open economies in the world. There are, however, marked differences between the three largely autonomous regions of Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, which between them have a combined population of around 11 million.
Belgium's six-party coalition government under the premiership of Elio Di Rupo has entered its second year. Major differences over the devolution of power to the regional governments and taxation issues hampered the formation of a new government after the general election in June 2010. The wealthier Flemish community has long campaigned for healthcare to be funded separately by the regions on the basis that Flanders is subsidising over-consumption in the francophone community.
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The country's federal structure has resulted in a rather complex system of healthcare administration, with no less than six ministers responsible for health matters at either federal, regional or community level, which complicates the development of a coherent healthcare policy. However, faced with a rising social security deficit, the government has gradually strengthened its role in controlling health expenditure.
Healthcare provision is generally good and of high quality, although there is still an over-reliance on hospital services, two thirds of which are provided by the private sector. Efforts are focusing on improving access to care for chronically-ill patients in general, and on improving the level of care for key patient groups by promoting a more co-ordinated approach between GPs and specialists.
Belgium has one of the highest rates of health spending in Western Europe. Previous governments were committed to increasing health expenditure by 4.5% in real terms, although in recent years health budgets have been under spent with funds held in reserve or used to pay off the deficit in other parts of the social security system.
In March 2012, the federal government approved additional cuts in healthcare spending of 61.3 million euros (US%76.6 million), in response to the deteriorating economic situation. The target for real health expenditure growth in future years has been lowered from 4.5% to 2.0%.
The health budget for 2013 has been set up 26.33 billion euros (US$32.9 million), a rise of 3.0% over the revised budget of 25.56 billion euros (US$32.0 million) set for 2012.
Medical device production is comparatively low and imports account for a large percentage of the market. Belgium lies at the heart of the EU and is used as a distribution centre by numerous multinational companies, which re-export to other parts of Europe.
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