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Swarms switch health insurers to avoid fees

DDP/The Local · 29 Mar 2010, 09:00

Published: 29 Mar 2010 09:00 GMT+02:00

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According to a poll conducted by insurers and published by daily Der Tagesspiegel, more than 250,000 people have changed their health insurance providers since the New Year to one not yet charging an extra fee.

Leading the pack is the Techniker Krankenkasse, also known as the TK, which has garnered an additional 130,000 customers. Meanwhile the GEK insurer has seen its customer base rise by 100,000, the paper said.

German law allows health insurers to charge customers extra fees when they can’t make do with the money doled out for each customer by the government's central statutory health care fund.

Germany’s public health care system instituted a new universal premium in January 2009. Set at 15.5 percent of an individual's gross pay, it has turned out to be insufficient to maintain the budgets of the country's statutory insurers. Many have begun slapping extra fees on their customers this year.

But health insurers also complained of deficits reaching €630 million by summer of 2009 because customers are not paying the fees they already owe, Der Tagesspiegel reported.

“Everyone should have health insurance, but when the members don’t pay, the insurers hardly have the opportunity to afford it,” GKV health insurer association head Ann Marini told the paper, adding that customers who default on their payments are not allowed to switch to other insurers.

Switching insurers may not help customers avoid extra fees for long, though.

Earlier this month Health Minister Philipp Rösler said he plans to tack a monthly per capita premium of €29 on health insurance beginning in 2011 to make up for chronic deficits.

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The fee would be paid by every person who is publicly insured, meanwhile employers and employees would continue to pay equal parts of insurance fees.

To alleviate the burden on the insured, Rösler also said he plans to remove additional fees of 0.9 percent added to employees’ contributions in 2005.

According to Health Ministry estimations, public insurers face a deficit of around €11 billion for 2011 due to the flagging economy.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:39 March 29, 2010 by edmond
the medical insurance in Germany wont go down soon , consider the following

every body most be insured that mean somebody have to pay for the premiums and not every body is working that means states welfare departments are paying a flat rate for their premiums . those working are pay at a percentage rate , their money is been used to cover those who pay at flat rates or simply set premiums , the reason is those who are supposed to work are not willing to work and those who are willing to work are not allowed to work
10:58 March 29, 2010 by William Thirteen
hmmm...interesting idea. strangely enough i am willing to work AND i am allowed to work AND i am working AND i am paying my insurance premiums. coincidence?
12:45 March 29, 2010 by michael4096
..those working are pay at a percentage rate..
Another misleading statement. People pay at income percentage up to a fixed amount. Most professionals essentially pay a flat rate.
..paying for unproven woo woo therapies and snake oil treatments..
The thing I like about the primary care system here is that the doctors are paid for all patients who sign up whether they need attention or not. The (haus) doctors have an interest in keeping patients away from the surgery which in general means keeping them healthy. Providing treatment that doesn't work is counter-productive and rarely prescribed.

Additionally, there is a well scrutinised, generally available list of accepted medicine available to all general doctors and they are not allowed to prescribe outside this list. This list is created by doctors with the insurance companies having only very limited veto power. They cannot add snake-oil.
13:03 March 29, 2010 by DantesHeaven
What they should do is shut down a few of these small and unprofitable insurers. Why should the public be forced to subsidise companies that are either poorly run or not able to attract a large enough based of policy holders to run in the black??
13:25 March 29, 2010 by michael4096
The theory is that if any insurer is insufficiently efficient, customers will pay more, leave and the insurers go to the wall. As this seems to be what is happening, it is difficult to argue with it.

Or do you think that government legislation is better than the free market even when the market is doing its job?
13:51 March 29, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"Or do you think that government legislation is better than the free market even when the market is doing its job?"

To see how well the free market works, look no further than the United States. Would anyone care to trade the German health insurance system for the corrupt disaster they have over there?
14:11 March 29, 2010 by michael4096
That is why I added the 'doing its job' :)

Though there is an enormous difference between a free market in providing mandated insurance and the american way
22:28 March 29, 2010 by farkle242
"To see how well the free market works, look no further than the United States. Would anyone care to trade the German health insurance system for the corrupt disaster they have over there?"

Sadly the US hasn't had a real free market since 1917. G W Bush babbled on about supporting 'The Free Market', a term I'm pretty sure he has no idea the meaning of while implementing policies and legislation that crippled the markets even further.

The best examples of any corrupt system are generally readily available by looking at Government. Governments are responsible for atrocities and crimes, not the people who guide the markets.
00:55 March 30, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"Governments are responsible for atrocities and crimes, not the people who guide the markets."

Talking points straight out of Goldman Sachs.
07:16 March 30, 2010 by farkle242
Ah yes, you are right. Goldman Sachs is well known for assassinations, genocide, making people disappear, testing out biological, chemical and nuclear weapons on their citizens and so on.

Governments are supposed to make life safe and ensure business can be conducted. Companies are supposed to make profits.

Somehow, people on the left forget what business is about. If you ever once thought it was some altruistic venture then perhaps you need to study a little more about economics.
09:57 March 30, 2010 by dbert4

"Governments are responsible for atrocities and crimes, not the people who guide the markets."

Those people who, "guide" the markets are guilty of terroristic acts, conspiracy, fraud and numerous other crimes against humanity. They don't have anyone's permission except that of US Republicans to make profits at any cost.

The conducting of business in a responsible fashion is the price they have to pay for they being allowed to participate in the world's economy.

I personally believe in the Chinese economic model where the leaders of corrupt companies are executed. AS happened to the head people in the poisoned baby formula scandal which occurred last year.

Or perhaps in your opinion, intentionally poisoning babies for profit is an acceptable means to a profit?

Perhaps you need to study a little more about being a human being and what it means to live in a society.
16:38 March 30, 2010 by farkle242

Hmmm... US Republicans? Really? When in fact, the Dems have been in control of congress more often than the Republicans over the last 40 years? Let's face it - Government is corrupt. I'm glad to see that you point out that the politicians are in fact the ones that cause the problems.

In China a very small percentage of the Corrupt individuals are actually executed. Reason being that if they executed them all the government would collapse. A majority of how government officials live there is paid for by bribes. They execute a handful for the sake of making an example. The majority of executions are against "criminals". A "criminal" is defined in China as those who oppose the government.

Ah - and here we come to the usual backup routine of all leftists - the personal insult. I have no interest in killing babies but I find it mildly amusing that you would suggest that's a basis for business. It shows how unrealistic your views are regarding economic systems.

You might be surprised to find that I am a productive part of society... Pay my taxes, help out where necessary. Buy things, sell things... Go to work, eat, sleep, play guitar and so on. I haven't actually killed anyone or stolen anything.

In the leftist mindset you follow, everyone who doesn't feed off of the government or doesn't think that the government should control every last aspect of their lives are naturally bad. They eat babies and sell others into slavery. At least that is what your attack boils down to.

In reality, a quiet, calm and stable state is necessary for business to be conducted. I am against big government because big powerful institutions always become corrupt. Since the government is all powerful and has no way to generate its own wealth it is particularly prone to corruption. They either end up stealing or waging war to expand their power. Large corporations follow from large, all powerful governments. Weaken the government, weaken the corporation. Business naturally remain small.

I'd rather maintain and work for my freedom than hand it over to Big Brother so I can sit around waiting for handouts.
22:09 March 30, 2010 by dbert4
You must not read the newspaper, what happened in Chinese spoke to the nature of profit making which you seem to support.

Industry and finance are by nature corrupt, they buy the type of government (Republican) which supports their activities.
03:30 March 31, 2010 by farkle242
My wife is Chinese - I've been there. We also have family in both business and government there. Trust me, it's extremely corrupt. Your problem is you probably spend a little too much time trusting what the media wants you to believe.

How do you define corrupt? Is that 'trying to make profits'? Corruption by it's very nature is a function of government. Companies pay people for services. The people in Government have the power to provide the services. Therefore if a Government employee takes money to provide an advantage to that company it is a business transaction for the company, however, for the Government employee it is bribery. The Government employee does not have to take the bribe, but they do.

In fact I watched such activities from a Hotel Window in China once. They don't even try to hide the corruption all that hard.

The same happens with every country on the planet. *All* governments are corrupt since they control what can and can't be done but have no way to generate their own profits. Companies are trying to acquire an advantage. Again, I suggest you consider the idea that business is not an altruistic venture but an attempt to generate profit. The one committing the crimes when it comes to business is the Government. Sure, if someone like a Bernie Madoff steals money and lies about it - that's a clear cut crime.

But, you're probably one of those leftist folks who thinks merely being engaged in business is a crime. So merely by going to the store and buying a loaf of bread you are assisting in the commission of a crime.

It's not a particular party that's criminal, it's nearly all politicians. Bush, Cheney, Kerry, Kennedy, Obama, Clinton, all have had more than their fair share of questionable transactions and activities.

John F Kennedy decided to make it illegal to have any business conducted with Cuba, but before he announced this order, he sent his personal aide to all of the local cigar shops to buy up all of the Cuban cigars so he could resell them for a profit.

Cheney's benefits in Iraq should be well known by now.

Bush - well Bush... where do I begin?

Obama had several real estate dealings in the Chicago area with people who are well known tax evaders and some have even been brought up on criminal charges in regards to their real estate operations. Some of the cases have been "gagged" to prevent any information leaking about associations with Obama. As you should know by now if you read the news you suggest I read, the "bailout" benefited a number of corporations who donated heavily to his campaign. The 'Health Care Bill' benefits Insurance companies more than the people. Why? Insurance firms are the largest contributors to the Democratic party.

You must be familiar with the phrase,

Power Corrupts. Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.
11:15 March 31, 2010 by dbert4
I wasn't using China for any reason other than I felt their punishment of corrupt business types appropriate.

Business by its very nature is corrupt, human nature is greed, actually limitless greed. The honest broker is supposed to be government, but US government is much less the honest broker than for example Germany's.

One is elected to politics in the US by being "corporate sponsored" which is corruption. The interests of the corporation are specifically made the interest of the US government.

This isn't a new development, it was Calvin Coolidge that said, "the business of America is business" in the 1920's. We know how that ended up.

The Republican party of which Coolidge was, has continued that same corruption of acting ONLY in the interest of business through till today.

It's only after they with their, "business friendly" politic crashed the economy that Democrat's take over for a time and tilt things in the interest of the people.

At one point one could have argued that "business friendly" politics benefited the US population through increased employment. That hasn't been true since Ronald Reagan. Ever since then, business has used politicians which they get elected to game the system to benefit themselves.

People who take up this BS of "small government" are fooling themselves. We need a strong efficient professional non-political government and politicians (there is a huge difference) which are freely elected and benefit the people.

The is an article from this morning's NY Times which speaks to the nature of the "corporate problem" please indulge me and take a moment to read it.

14:20 March 31, 2010 by Talonx
Michael and Prufrock, damn straight I'll keep my German health insurance over American any day of the week. I've never recieved this consistent quality of care across the board in the U.S. On standards, though, standards are tight with regards potentially harmful drugs (much much much tighter than in the U.S.), they aren't as tight when it comes to harmless money-wasting drugs (homeopathic med.), which is unfortunate. Finally, they could reform tiers of insurance payments for the self-employed (they're a little sharp at the top and to blunt at the bottom) and make more of an effort to include dental.
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