AOK and Union split the plans of Health Minister Lauterbach (SPD). Is a VAT reduction on medicines useful?
Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) did he really prescribe the right therapy to the compulsory health insurance schemes threatened with bankruptcy? The doubts on this subject are growing stronger. The AOK warns of a “historic crisis” and CSU health expert Stephan Pilsinger fears a “tsunami” of ever-increasing contributions. He told our editorial staff: “The solutions currently proposed by the federal government are random one-off measures that do not solve the real long-term problem.
In view of an impending deficit of 17 billion euros for the coming year, SPD politician Lauterbach recently presented the draft of a “compulsory law for the financial stabilization of health insurance”. Among other things, it provides for an increase in the additional contribution of 0.3 percentage point and a dissolution of the financial reserves of the caisses. Doctors should receive less money for new patients and pharmaceutical companies should pay a “solidarity tax”.
Pilsinger, like Lauterbach himself a doctor, massively criticizes the project and warns of the devastating financial consequences for policyholders: “If a fundamental reform of cash financing is not carried out quickly, then there is a risk of a a veritable tsunami of premiums, with the wave of premium increases increasing every year. In 2023, he calculated, the additional contribution should increase by 0.5 percentage points, and in the following two years by at least one percentage point – depending on the fund.
Letter of fire to Lauterbach: how can health insurers save money?
In a fiery letter to Lauterbach, which is exclusively available to our editorial team, Pilsinger makes two concrete suggestions on how the statutory health insurance funds could reduce their deficits by 16 billion on their own. A relief of ten billion euros would result if the Federal Government fully assumed the costs of health insurance for recipients of unemployment benefit II (“Hartz IV”). Health care for the long-term unemployed has so far been largely financed by the insured community, but it is an original social mission of the state as a whole, and it is also unfair that those who do not are not legally insured have nothing to contribute.
Pilsinger is also pushing for a reduction in the VAT rate on medicines from 19% to 7%, which would relieve health insurance funds of an additional six billion. It is “inexplicable that basic foods such as bread, butter, cheese and sausages are currently subject to a 7% sales tax, while essential drugs such as cytostatics and antihypertensives are subject to a 19% sales tax”. Pilsinger said, “These two measures alone would relieve the cash register considerably in the long run.”
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AOK fears dramatic consequences
In view of the imminent record deficit of the GKV of 17 billion euros, the president of the Federal Association AOK, Carola Reimann, warns of dramatic consequences. “We have a fragile situation,” she said. Handelsblatt. Lauterbach must understand that the boxes are empty. If Germany slips into a recession, it will plunge the cash system into a “historic crisis”. “Nobody is prepared for this,” says Reimann.
Lauterbach’s reform plans had raised objections Frankfurter Allgemeine also supported by coalition partners Greens and FDP. While the Minister of Health claimed to have closely coordinated his plan with Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner, party MP Wolfgang Kubicki criticized the fact that the spokesman only learned about it through the hurry. He announced that there would be “significant changes” in the parliamentary vote.
The FDP’s reservations would be directed against the plan to ask pharmaceutical companies to pay one billion euros. Janosch Dahmen, spokesman for health policy for the Greens in the Bundestag, defended Lauterbach against the charge that his plan was not coordinated at a red light. But he also sees room for improvement. Like CSU man Pilsinger, he demands that the state pay more for the contributions of the long-term unemployed to the coffers.