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Higher health insurance costs approved

DPA/The Local · 6 Jul 2010, 15:51

Published: 06 Jul 2010 15:51 GMT+02:00

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After months of debate, the government coalition partners hammered out an agreement to raise the contribution rate, shared roughly equally between worker and employer, from 14.9 percent to 15.5 percent of a worker's income.

Health insurers will also be free to charge limitless Zusatzbeiträge, or “additional contributions.” This top-up money, which insurers can charge members to balance out extra costs, is presently capped.

The higher rate of 15.5 percent would take effect from 2011 and is expected to bring in about €6 billion to aid the ailing insurers. Statutory health funds, which insure about nine out of 10 Germans, face an estimated deficit of €11 billion over the next year.

“The expected deficit in excess of €11 billion for the year 2011 will be balanced,” said Health Minister Philipp Rösler, announcing the new plan in Berlin. “At the same time we will also get the health system on a course of sustainable, solid financing.”

To compensate for higher “additional contributions,” the government will provide a subsidy for the poor – both workers and pensioners – funded by taxpayers.

Funds can presently charge no more than 1 percent of a member’s income as an additional contribution. This limit will be scrapped.

However, if the additional contribution exceeds 2 percent of a member’s income, a “hardship provision” kicks in and they are eligible for a subsidy.

The reform will also abolish the present upper limit on additional contributions that an insurer can charge members irrespective of their incomes – currently set at €8 per month.

The standard for the additional contributions will now be calculated according to average costs in the health sector, which generally has a much higher inflation rate than other industries. The insurers will be able to decide this rate themselves.

The centre-right coalition leaders agreed on the plan Tuesday morning after a three-hour meeting. Health financing has become a troublesome issue for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, with frequent clashes between her CDU's Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, and the pro-business Free Democrats.

But Rösler, a Free Democrat, denied the announcement was a pale compromise.

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“We in the government coalition can be happy because this is exactly what the coalition agreement called for. We have never questioned that.”

Opposition Social Democratic parliamentary leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however, called for Rösler's resignation, saying his failure to negotiate more fundamental health reform within the coalition showed he was unfit to be minister.

CDU-CSU parliamentary leader Peter Altmaier announced in the morning it would be the last rise in the contribution rates “for a long time,” and would therefore pave the way for more fundamental structural reform.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:21 July 6, 2010 by whiteriver
unrelated picture?
17:53 July 6, 2010 by Diebesbeute
Well, since Philipp Rösler is the Health Minister and that is a picture of Mr. Rösler, I am going to vote for the picture being related (just because we look Asian, doesn't mean we're not German).

On another topic, I wonder how this will affect private insurance. I already pay 25% more than my wife does because I am on a private plan and she has a gesetzliche.
19:03 July 6, 2010 by majura
"The centre-left coalition leaders agreed on the plan Tuesday morning after a three-hour meeting. "

You guys mean centre-right, right?

Back to the actual story though. Austerity measures AND raising health costs... Merkel & Guido sure know how to get themselves out of the big seat.
20:15 July 6, 2010 by Clapoti
Less money for me... again :(
22:18 July 6, 2010 by ReaderX
Wow I didn't see this one coming, after that huge amount of money the elected officials here handed over to the Greeks. Whom we don't seem to hear anything about, now that they got a free handout.

Ohh and to the Elected please raise our taxes again. That way we can repay that money.
23:42 July 6, 2010 by claudegaveau
Another giant leap for German workers in the race to the bottom.
01:43 July 7, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, this is simply another example as to how inefficiently humans are.

If the focus on health care were based primarily upon prevention, then insurers would see profits instead of deficits.

This approach would work very well for America too. This country is quite divided over how to deal with health care.

Life would be so much better for all of us, if everyone were to fully commit to an

efficient-conservative way of life.
13:29 July 8, 2010 by Prufrock2010
You tell 'em, Forrest.
15:43 July 8, 2010 by jinxgelb
With the German population growing ever older and the expenses for age-related treatments rising, alongside with fewer younger payers into the system, the Germans should realize how important preventive measures are. But alas, bratwurst and fried potatoes smothered in rich sauce seem to be much tastier than low-fat meals, and doing sports seems to be so tiresome. And what German would refrain from his four o'clock coffee and cake (or rather, rich gateau)?

On the other side, it is an infinite source of surprise for me to see how many youth drink excessively, even when pregnant, causing severe health damage to their own minds and bodies and to those of the unborn.

Besides, the weekly online-magazine gesundheit.de has reported that children growing up now may be the first generation to die before their parents due to the extremely unhealthy lifestyle: too little sports, too much time spent in front of the computer or TV, wrong diet. Every fifth child in Germany suffers from overweight, even obesity.

Rather than ranting and raving against the injustice of the current system and the proposals by Mr. Rösler, even though they certainly do provide reasons for criticism, people should take more responsibility for themselves. Health strengthening programs should find more room in public debates and in the media, as was successfully done back in the 70s.
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