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Public health insurers score record profits
Photo: DPA

Public health insurers score record profits

Published: 05 Mar 2012 15:25 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Mar 2012 15:25 GMT+01:00

Germany’s public health insurance companies made €4 billion in profits last year, bringing their total reserves to more than €10 billion. The news has re-opened a debate on what to do with the extra cash.

The end of year results, published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung based on Health Ministry figures, are all the more surprising because insurers made a loss of €390 million in 2010.

According to the insurers, the surplus is down to the fact that expense estimates were too high, and so state allocations were higher than expected. Caps on the cost of medication, imposed in 2010, helped to lower expenses too.

On top of this, Germany’s healthy employment figures and rising wages have also increased the insurers’ income. Germany never had as many people contributing to the public health insurance system as in 2011, a trend that observers say could continue in 2012, depending on economic development.

The Techniker Krankenkasse, Germany’s second biggest public insurer, registered the biggest profits, making €962 million last year. But market leader Barmer/GEK’s profits actually shrank last year, with its surplus down from €411 million to €297 million.

The figures are likely to re-ignite the debate about Germany’s health insurance contributions. Hospitals want the government to use the surplus to spare them in the latest budget cuts, but Health Minister Daniel Bahr says the insurers should pay money back to contributors.

Others want the €10 quarterly fee for visiting a doctor to be scrapped, while Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, under pressure to balance Germany’s books, would prefer to use the high surpluses as an occasion to cut the €14 billion tax subsidy to public health insurers.

The insurers, meanwhile, point out that the cost of healthcare is continuing to rise and that any subsidy-saving measures could put them in a precarious financial position in the future.

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:36 March 5, 2012 by William Thirteen
it does seem prudent to save the extra cash for a rainy day. With our aging population and uncertain economic climate in the coming decade, keeping a bit'o'cash in the cookie jar seems wise.

But what about this €14 billion subsidy? and of course, i wouldn't mind getting rid of the €10 quarterly charge either. i am always annoyed when i have to visit the doc near the end of the quarter!
18:59 March 5, 2012 by gtappend
The trouble is that there's no real reward these days for those that did well. Before the Gesundheitsfond the TKK would have been able to use their surplus to reduce their premiums or increase the amount "extras" that they will cover in the future. Now they don't have a choice.

@William you should try going right at the end of the quarter... ie. the last day.

It's really frustration to be in A+E on New Year's Eve, pay 10EUR, be seen by the first doctor and then referred to a specialist on New Year's Day, only to be told that that's a separate quarter and you need to pay again!
19:53 March 5, 2012 by Englishted
What every else they do they should stop spending so much money on swanky new office buildings as they seem do in every city I visit.
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