Health insurers’ financial gap: Lauterbach is also guilty of poverty – politics

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) just outlined the key points for a bill to alleviate the financial poverty of statutory health insurance companies (GKV) in the short term, and it quickly became clear that Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) was almost fully enforcing his ideas.

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GKV members in particular have to pay now, expect higher contributions from next year than ever before. In return, the tax subsidies demanded by Lauterbach and the cash registers are much lower than expected.

But the “premium shock” that many are now talking about is actually just the first warning shot: as the situation of health insurance companies, and therefore of those insured, is at risk of becoming much worse in the coming years. It is a drama with announcement – only reminders can no longer be ignored, as in previous years.

In the coming year, the GKV will run out of at least EUR 17 billion, but the Ukrainian war could increase the deficit to well over EUR 20 billion. Contrary to popular belief, the minus is not a consequence of Corona, but largely the result of failures of the past few years. Not so long ago, health insurance companies had a lot of money at their disposal.

then Minister of Health: Jens Spahn (CDU) in 2020Photo: dpa / Bernd Thissen

Lauterbach’s predecessor, Jens Spahn (CDU), was therefore tempted to take overly popular measures during his tenure. For example, setting up appointment service points and paying for additional doctors to see new patients. This is what Lauterbach had in mind when he accused Spahn of lagging behind on reforms and costly laws.

But Lauterbach seems to have forgotten it: as an SPD health expert, he was not only in the grand coalition’s boat, but even behind the wheel. As an MP for a parliamentary group, he negotiated every Spahn bill and repeatedly insisted that it would bring the SPD’s clear letter to health policy – especially the Appointment Service Act, which Lauterbach believed at the time certainly helped end “two-class medicine”. “.

Lauterbach empties the reserves of the health insurance companies

As minister, Lauterbach is now dealing with health policy flakes not only from Spahn, but also from many previous officials. Urgently needed reforms were delayed at that time due to financial reserves.

In addition to the 0.3 percentage point increase in contributions, Lauterbach is now draining the penultimate reserves of the sickness funds – funds from GKV members. He also urges the GKV to take a “federal loan” to get into debt. With any luck, this will be enough to make it through the coming year, but not for much longer.

The benefits are already diminishing

According to estimates by GKV experts, the deficit will increase by an additional four to five billion euros a year if no remedial measures are taken. However, as there are no longer any reserves to use with health insurance companies in the coming year, there is a risk of premium increases that could well exceed the current jump by multiple. And this is done on an annual basis.

In addition, there may be performance drops which Lauterbach has so far ruled out. However, he has not yet been able to keep his promise: because this is obviously a reduction in benefits, when particularly “complex”, i.e. patients with multiple diseases, soon find it difficult to make an appointment with a doctor, as doctors no longer receive an additional fee for new patients .

A permanent reform of health insurance is needed

The urgent reform of statutory health insurance should have been undertaken when the necessary resources were available to start the business. Now they’re becoming open-heart surgery while the lights in the operating room are already flickering.

The biggest challenge to Lauterbach’s health policy remains the same as it was before presenting the key points: the ongoing reform of statutory health insurance that prevents an exodus of those who can afford private insurance. Searching for the culprits and pointing your finger at Spahn can temporarily be distracting. But that doesn’t lead anyone further.

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