Intervention in health care insurance in Germany

Expected to soon pass in parliament, Germany's "Wettbewerbsstärkungsgesetz" (the "law to strengthen competition" in the health-care sector) leaves the central flaw in Germany's health-care system in place, says the Wall Street Journal.

Under the law:

  • Private insurers would be forced to provide certain people with "basic" insurance at a discount.

  • Insurers cannot refuse people who used to be privately insured but are now without coverage, those who are privately insured and are either above the age of 55 or have difficulties paying their premiums or anybody who wants to switch from the public system.

  • The bill also caps the premiums for this basic insurance at around €500 (R4700) a month, even if the customer's risk profile would demand a higher rate.

    In order to finance such "reforms," insurers would have to raise premiums for other customers by between 10 per cent and 12 per cent, according to estimates by an industry association. This would make regular policies less attractive and increase incentives among customers to switch to the "basic" coverage. The snowball effect could drive some insurers out of the market.

    It is of course the government's right to legislate "basic" health-care coverage in its social policy, if it so chooses, says the Journal. But this kind of policy usually gets paid out of the state budget. To ask private companies to cough up the money directly, and even put their business in serious jeopardy, goes against the very idea of free enterprise.

    Source: Editorial, Wettbewerbsstärkungsgesetz, Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2007.

    For text:

    For more on International Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 30 January 2007
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