The objectives guiding healthcare reforms in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands were to increase efficiency and consumer satisfaction in the provision of healthcare services. This paper reviews the incentives for and instruments of competition for consumers, sickness funds and healthcare providers in these three countries which are necessary to fulfil these objectives. Incentives for risk selection of sickness funds are high in Germany and Switzerland while they are low in the Netherlands. Incentives for consumer choice are also highest in Germany and Switzerland. In all three countries sickness funds have only a few instruments of competition. The effects of competition have been disappointing so far. The objectives of competitive healthcare reforms can be achieved only if incentives for and instruments of competition consistently support competitive behaviour on the part of market actors.