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Federal cabinet votes for relief of late contributors
Many people in Germany can no longer pay their health insurance contributions. Primarily affected are "voluntarily insured persons", who, for example, have widely varying income as a single self-employed person and are nevertheless often affected by high health insurance contributions. So that the debt does not increase immeasurably, the Federal Cabinet today from the Union and the FDP approved a bill by the Federal Minister of Health. This provides for the annual default surcharge for debtors to be reduced from the previous 60 percent per year to a maximum of twelve percent. In addition, insured persons of the private health insurance (PKV) can move into a so-called emergency tariff, which is continued with greatly reduced health services. Elective tariffs are to be severely restricted in favor of private health insurance at the health insurance companies.
According to the Federal Minister of Health Daniel Bahr (FDP), this reform, which has been confirmed in the Federal Cabinet, is intended to give defaulting insured people the option of returning to their previous insurance cover. "If someone gets into trouble, there has to be a way to get out," said the minister at a press conference in Berlin today. According to Bahr, those affected are "mostly self-employed" who can no longer pay their contributions.
240,000 people are in debt with their health insurance
"About 100,000 people in Germany are defaulting contributors who have accumulated a mountain of debt of around two billion euros," said Bahr. Anyone who cannot afford insurance protection due to the debt can only take advantage of emergency care, in case of severe pain or as part of pregnancy, health insurance. There is also a high number of debtors in private health insurance. Here Bahr quantified the number of those affected by around 140,000 defaulting private insured.
The draft law stipulates that the voluntarily statutory health insured person will now only pay the regular monthly default surcharge of one percent of the arrears instead of the previous five percent monthly premium.
Emergency tariff for indebted private patients
On the other hand, those who have debts with private health insurance will be transferred to a so-called "emergency tariff" according to the legally required dunning procedure. The private insurance contract that had been agreed until then is suspended until the debts are paid. The emergency tariff has a significantly lower premium, but the insured only receive health care if they suffer from acute to life-threatening illnesses.
The central association of statutory health insurance GKV was satisfied with the decision. As the spokesman for the association Florian Lanz said, "the situation would now be adjusted" and the extreme interest rate of 60 percent would be abolished. The SPD health expert and Member of the Bundestag Hilde Matteis criticized the project of the federal government. This reform does not change the basic situation of the debtors. Rather, it has to be looked at why those affected accumulate this debt in the first place. The Left Party also sharply criticized the new regulations. "The bill is an invitation to accumulate debts and then get into a cheap emergency tariff," said the left Martina Bunge. She referred to the regulation at the private health insurance.
Statutory health insurance companies are severely curtailed
The left also criticized that the statutory health insurance funds are severely cut in favor of private health insurance. In the future, the health insurance companies will no longer be able to offer so-called optional tariffs. This included supplementary insurance for dentures or tariffs that provided for reimbursement of contributions if an insured person did not take advantage of certain health services. According to the draft law, "no more holding effects should be taken into account when calculating these offers". The effect is to encourage insured people with a special tariff, to stay in the statutory health insurance and not to migrate to private health insurance. "The federal government wants to make the electoral tariffs much more expensive by abolishing the holding effects", the health insurers had recently feared. This should make it impossible for the health insurance companies to continue offering optional tariffs. (sb)
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Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de