Financing of health insurance companies: Lauterbach for contribution increase

The Bundestag debates the money shortage of the health insurance companies. The Minister of Health wants the insured to pay more.

Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, lowers his head shortly before his speech in the Bundestag session

Wants to burden the contributors more: Karl Lauterbach Photo: Annette Riedl/dpa

BERLIN taz | The statutory health insurance companies (GKV) are facing a financial hole: They expect a minus of 17 billion euros in the coming year. Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) called this “historic” in the Bundestag on Friday – and defended his plans to stabilize the GKV finances. the bill, which the Cabinet has already approvedshare the burden fairly.

Accordingly, the federal government should provide an additional grant of two billion euros. The health insurance companies themselves would have to contribute a so-called “solidarity contribution” of four billion euros from their reserves. The pharmaceutical industry should also contribute to the relief by temporarily raising the manufacturer discount for patent-protected medicines.

The main criticism, however, is the planned increase in the average additional contribution. It is expected to increase by 0.3 percentage points to a total of 1.6 percent. That would mean that in future 16.2 percent would be deducted from gross wages for health insurance, more than ever before. So far it was 15.9 percent.

Benefit cuts "not transferable"

Lauterbach now said at the first reading of the draft law in the Bundestag that the increase in the additional contribution accounts for only a tenth of the total volume of his package. This means that by far the largest part is not paid by the employee side. He also pointed out that the 0.3 percent is split between employers and insured persons.

For him, the top priority is that there will be no reductions in benefits for insured persons. They are “unplaceable at such a time”. Instead, so-called efficiency reserves – i.e. potential savings – should be considered. Lauterbach emphasized, for example, that in some funds "the board members earn significantly more than the Federal Chancellor". The long period over which the pharmaceutical industry can charge high prices for new medicines is also unique in Germany. It should now be shortened.

Union fears "cash register crash"

The Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek spoke for the Union faction. The CSU politician criticized the plans as a "supply destabilization law". Germany is heading for a “cash register crash” if things continue like this, Holetschek warned. It is counterproductive to skim off the reserves of the health insurance companies. On the other hand, the federal subsidy is far too low.

Against the background of the energy crisis and inflation, rising contributions are not a good signal to the population. Holetschek also accused Lauterbach that the draft bears the signature of the finance and justice ministries and spoke of a "surrender if health policy is no longer made by health politicians".

Traffic light promises structural reform

The Green MP Maria Klein-Schmeink admitted that the reform could only be a temporary solution. However, she firmly rejected the criticism from the CDU and CSU: the list of deficits was an “oath of disclosure for 16 years of Union health policy”. The federal government inherited the financial gap from its predecessor.

According to Klein-Schmenk, a comprehensive structural reform is needed, because the reserves of the cash registers can only be accessed once. Among other things, the reform of hospital financing is now on the agenda.

Left: The government misjudges

The left faction fears that the government underestimates the size of the financial gap in the statutory health insurance funds. According to some experts, instead of the 17 billion euros, it is actually almost 25 billion euros, explained the left-wing MP Ates Gürpinar. In addition, the proportion that the contributors paid for the financial stabilization of the health insurance funds had been calculated up and down by the government.

Because the reserves of the health insurance funds were built up with the contributions of the insured. Gürpinar speaks of a total of 11 of the 17 billion euros that, according to alternative calculations, actually come from the insured.

AfD causes outrage

AfD MP Martin Sichert caused a scandal. He ranted about "Ukrainian luxury cars" in front of German dentists' surgeries, where "Ukrainians would have their teeth straightened at the expense of German contributors," while many Germans no longer knew how to pay for their basic groceries. Federal Health Minister Lauterbach responded on Twitter and called Sichert's statement "disgusting". "That's exactly how Nazis talked about Jews here in the house," Lauterbach wrote.

Following the plenary debate, the bill was referred to the Health Committee for further deliberation. The opposition factions of the Left Party and AfD also submitted a total of six motions of their own on the subject. They are now also going to the lead health committee.

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