We compare free choice reforms in Denmark and the United States to understand what ideas and political forces could generate such similar policy reforms in radically different political contexts. We analyze the two cases using our own interpretation of neoliberalism as having “two faces.” The first face seeks to expand private markets and shrink the public sector; the second face seeks to strengthen the public sector’s capacity to govern through incentives and competition. First, we show why these two most-different cases offer a useful comparison to understand similar policy tools. Second, we develop our theoretical framework of the two faces of neoliberalism. Third, we examine Denmark’s introduction of a free choice of hospitals in 2002, a policy that for the first time allowed some patients to receive care either in a public hospital outside their local area or in a private hospital. Fourth, we examine the introduction of free choice among private managed care plans into the US Medicare program in 1997. We show how policy makers in both countries used neoliberal reform as a mechanism to make their public health care sectors governable. Fifth, on the basis of our analysis, we draw five lessons about neoliberal policy reforms.
– Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law