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Health insurers bashed for vaccine threats

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Health insurers bashed for vaccine threats
Photo: DPA
10:56 CEST+02:00
Health insurer threats to raise premiums to accommodate swine flu vaccinations have been met with strong criticism from German politicians and employers this week.

With the first delivery of the A/H1N1 virus vaccinations expected in September, insurers have been bickering with the government on who should pick up the tab, which is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of euros.

Government commissioner for medical patients' rights Helga Kühn-Mengel said the threat by insurers was unnecessary.

“Vaccinations are part of standard health insurance benefits after the last health reform, and without co-payments and higher premiums,” Kühn-Mengel said, adding that vaccinations cost less than treating people once they get sick.

Health expert for the Social Democrats Mechthild Rawert agreed that health insurers should not charge patients because most have been running a surplus this year.

Greens MP Harald Terpe called insurer demands a "pretext" and said they were looking for a "reason to make up for cuts to premiums from July."

According to the association of German employers (BDA), raising insurance costs to finance the swine flu shots is “neither necessary nor possible.”

On Thursday the GKV association of state insurers said Thursday they would increase premiums by October 1 if they were forced to take on the vaccination costs, but some insurers have already backed away from the increases after the storm of criticism.

Meanwhile the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) has said the government should use tax money to finance the vaccinations.

“Such a flat fee is high for all of the insured and hits the poor particularly hard,” VZVB spokesman Stefan Etgeton said.

But according to other critics, the swine flu panic is a fabrication.

“It's a big money-maker for the pharmaceutical industry,” Social Democrat MP and medical doctor Wolfgang Wodarg. “If they look at the number of cases, it's laughable in comparison to other flu epidemics.”

The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany's infectious diseases authority, reported on Wednesday that there have been 8,619 confirmed cases of swine flu.

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