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COVID-19 VACCINES

German health insurance providers refuse to enforce future vaccine mandate

In a blow to the governing traffic-light coalition, German health insurance firms have claimed they would not be responsible for helping to enforce a general vaccine mandate.

Vaccination booklet
A yellow vaccination booklet. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ABDA Bundesvgg. Dt. Apothekerverbände | ABDA

Legislation put forward by a group of MPs from the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) envision the support of the health insurance companies in monitoring a potential Covid general vaccine mandate. 

But the umbrella organisation of the statutory health insurance firms (GSV) has rejected the idea, claiming that implementing the mandate wouldn’t be within their remit. 

A GKV spokesperson told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe on Thursday that the insurance providers would be willing to fulfil their mandate to inform and advise insured customers, but they could not take it further.

“The enforcement and control of a possible legal vaccination obligation, on the other hand, would be the task of the state,” they said.

What are the proposals?

GKV’s comments will come as a blow to the group of the ‘traffic light’ coalition MPs who have placed the insurance firms at the centre of their plans.

Under their proposals, these public insurance companies would record the vaccination status of their customers in a portal and then pass on details of unvaccinated people to the local health authorities. 

The health authorities would then offer unvaccinated people an appointment and issue fines if the offer were not taken up within four weeks.

SPD parliamentary group vice-chairman Dirk Wiese, who has helped to put together the proposed legislation, told the Funke Media Group he remained committed to the plan. 

“We want to go via the health insurance funds,” he said. “From our point of view, this makes sense, is legally permissible and also feasible.”

The parliamentary group wants to publish the draft law “before next week”, Wiese added. 

If the bill is voted through in parliament in late March, it could come into force by October 1st after six months of reviews and consultations. 

All over-18s without a medical exemption would then be required to have at least three Covid jabs with a recognised EU vaccine, such as Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

The legislation would be due to expire in late 2023. 

READ ALSO: German MPs set out plans for over-18s vaccine mandate

Higher health insurance costs?

A key point paper presented by MPs last week proposes that fines be placed on people who refuse to get vaccinated, though there are currently no plans for higher health insurance premiums for unvaccinated people in the bills put forward in parliament.

In December last, Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) had floated proposals for financial penalties added to health insurance costs – and idea that has been supported by Rainer Schlegel, the president of the Federal Social Court. 

According to Schlegel, unvaccinated Covid patients should contribute to the costs of in-patient treatment. The proportion of the costs borne by the patients should be linked to income and assets, he argued. 

The health insurance providers reject this proposal as well.

Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek

Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) speaks at a cabinet meeting in January. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tobias Hase

Major health insurance AOK, which insures around 27 million people, said penalties through insurance would be misguided. 

“We reject this completely,” said Carola Reimann, head of the board of the AOK national association. “We must not let a few vaccination opponents destroy the fact that we insure everyone in solidarity under the same conditions.”

The former health minister of Lower Saxony argued that higher insurance costs would risk undermining the entire state healthcare system. 

“If you were to introduce higher premiums for the unvaccinated, you would also have to have a different tariff for diabetics, smokers and high-risk athletes,” she said. “Then we would be in a private health insurance system.”

READ ALSO: Germany divided over Covid vaccine mandate

Member comments

  1. Never thought I would see the day that insurance companies would have a stronger moral compass than the government.

  2. Finally, people who have sense within positions of authority are speaking out. Encouraged, and excited to see more.

  3. Surprised me to.
    The question still arises: what are these idiots with their crazy ideas doing?
    Reminder: Is not a Government with Morals an oxymoron?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany’s Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

After an attempt to introduce an over-60s vaccine mandate was rejected in parliament, German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has said his government will not bring the issue to a vote again.

Germany's Scholz rules out second attempt at vaccine mandate

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has rejected the idea of a second attempt to introduce mandatory Covid vaccinations.

“There is no legislative majority in the Bundestag for compulsory vaccination,” he said on Thursday evening after consultations with the leaders of the federal states in Berlin.

Expressing his regret at the lack of support for the move, he said this reality would have to be the “starting point” for any future vaccination drives. 

“I am, of course, disappointed that there was no majority today, I don’t want to hide that at all,” said Scholz. “I am still convinced that it would be right to have compulsory vaccination in Germany. With the Bundestag decision, however, a very clear statement by the legislator had now been made.”

Despite the fact that Covid-19 vaccines have been available in Germany for more than a year, around 24 percent of the population still have no vaccine protection whatsoever.

Of these, around 4-5 percent are too young to get the Covid vaccine, but around 20 percent are either against the idea or still on the fence. 

“We will do everything we can to convince even more citizens of this country to get vaccinated,” Scholz told reporters. “This will require our creativity.”

READ ALSO: Scholz gets stinging defeat in parliament with Covid jab vote

On Thursday, a bill for compulsory vaccination for everyone over the age of 60 was voted down in the Bundestag, dealing a painful blow to its supporters in the traffic-light coalition. 

The bill had been promoted primarily by SPD and Green MPs, including Scholz himself and Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). A motion from the opposition CDU/CSU parties to introduce a vaccine register and potential target vaccine mandates was also rejected by the house. 

‘Bitter defeat’

Scholz is not alone in ruling out the possibility of reviving the vaccine mandate issue. 

Speaking to Tagesschau in Berlin, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the failure of the bill had been a “bitter defeat” that made it unlikely that any future bill on the subject would gain enough support to succeed.

“It’s a clear result that has to be lived with,” he said. “I’m sceptical about whether we can still achieve anything through additional talks.”

In a democracy, he said, this had to be respected.

But he explained that the failure of compulsory vaccination is bad news for vulnerable patients, for those who work to treat and care for Covid patients, and for all those who have to live with restrictions. A new wave of infections is likely by autumn at the latest, Lauterbach said.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister to target undecided in new Covid jab campaign

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