€8 Trouble in Paradise

Back to Health Care Reform. I know: the battle’s over, the President is now out doing his victory-lap, and even some Republicans think that, now that it passed, it’s here to stay.

But remember, this is above all a weblog with a European bent, so – if it makes you feel better – I can let you know (from an article in Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel) that a certain turbulence is also currently afflicting that model of social(ist) health care provision, the German Krankenkassen. Those are the non-profit, government-supervised insurance companies that cover the vast majority of Germany’s population and are restricted to basing their premiums solely on the insured’s income. (You’re required to have medical insurance coverage there, of course, with very few exceptions, although if you prefer you can buy it from purely-private, for-profit insurers instead.) As the article reports, the public Krankenkassen are now experiencing extraordinary customer-turnover, often in the hundreds-of-thousands. Why? Because the government authorized them in February to charge those they insure up to €8 (= $10.85) more per month in order to shore up their balance-sheets, and some of them took advantage of that.

That’s right: eight euros per month more! Apparently that’s a deal-breaker for many Germans, who in remarkable numbers have proceeded to resign from the Krankenkassen which implemented the measure (known as the Zusatzbeitrag, or “supplementary contribution”) to go join those which did not. It didn’t help that someone made an elementary mistake about how to implement it, in that they made any interested Krankenkasse have to bill customers directly for the extra amount, rather than just letting it be charged as medical insurance premiums normally are as a wage-deduction collected by employers.

Just a word here, then, to let all interested know that it is not always sweetness & light over where citizens need not worry about medical coverage. (Not that there’s any indication that the firms losing customers are in any danger of going bust – like I say, they are state-supported.)

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