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Top-up health fee dodgers face hefty fines

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Top-up health fee dodgers face hefty fines
Photo: DPA
12:06 CEST+02:00
People who refuse to pay additional top-up money to their statutory health insurer face fines of up to €225 under reforms being considered by the federal government, media reported Wednesday.

Daily Rheinische Post reported that a government advisory panel is discussing the hefty fines as a way of enforcing the Zusatzbeiträge or extra fees, which statutory health insurers are allowed to charge customers when they can't make do with the money doled out for each customer by the government's central statutory health fund.

In early 2010, more than a dozen health insurers began charging their members such fees, which top out at €37.50 per month.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry confirmed that a regulation was being discussed “which ensures that additional payments will be paid,” Rheinische Post reported.

The statutory health insurance industry would thereby be protected against people disinclined to pay the additional payments.

“This will therefore insure that the honest are not the suckers,” said the spokesman.

While the regular health insurance contributions are taken directly from a worker's salary by their employer, this cannot be done in the case of extra fees for data privacy reasons. Instead, an employee must make their own extra payments.

A plan to have employers deduct the extra payments directly from people's salaries if they default had been abandoned, a participant in the discussions told the paper.

“That's not possible for data protection reasons. The employers are allowed to find out who isn't paying,” the source said.

The debate follows a report this week in daily Bild that about 1 million people have refused to pay additional fees levied by statutory health insurers this year to fill budgetary shortfalls.

At one insurer, BKK, some 30 percent of members had ignored demands to pay the additional charge.

Andrea Nahles, secretary general of the centre-left Social Democrats, said it was deeply unfair if rising health care costs in the future were borne solely by people insured by statutory insurers, while employers and the privately insured escaped extra burdens.

At the same time, she described as “ludicrous” the notion of making employers and pension schemes the collectors of the additional payments.

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