German healthcare reform
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners indicated have indicated over the weekend that they are nearing a decision on a healthcare reform. The reports come after months of bitter discord.
Members of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the junior Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partner said they were making progress on plans to reduce a projected €11 billion deficit in state-backed healthcare funds by 2011.
The proposed healthcare reform is one of many issues which has prompted much squabbling within the centre-right government coalition.
One issue has been a proposal by Health Minister Philip Roesler of the FDP to charge individuals a monthly healthcare premium of €30 euros, irrespective of income.
The proposal has been vehemently opposed by Merkel's Bavarian coalition partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
"We are optimistic that we will meet the savings target of €4 billion," Roesler said after the first day of a healthcare summit.
Raising salaries - healthcare reform
During the discussions on the healthcare reform, it was questioned whether to raise the levy on German salaries which pays for the health system.
But experts on the economics of healthcare say the Merkel government is shirking the bigger question that also slipped by US President Barack Obama: how to lower the bill for treatment. As a rich country, Germany can easily fight off something like one dangerous virus.
When H1N1 swine-flu arrived last year, the German states swiftly launched a free-vaccination programme that cost €283 million euros. The programme proved a fiasco, with only seven percent of Germans lining up for their jabs. Millions of doses remain unused. That reinforced a perception that waste is rife in healthcare. About 90 percent of Germans buy health insurance from state-supervised funds. Roesler officials say the funds face a deficit of €11 billion next year as costs race ahead of their income.
Reports of waste have increased pressure on Roesler, who came to office last year with promises of reform, to reduce spending before he tries to increase the premiums Germans pay into the regulated system.
Little has come of Roesler's call in March this year to end the power of pharmaceuticals companies to set their own prices for patented drugs.
He proposes that all wage-earners pay a minimum base rate, plus a surcharge based on incomes. Analysts say this would mean a hike in contributions for many of the customers compared to the levies they pay at the moment.
In the next four decades, the number of working-age Germans paying into insurance schemes will sink from 50 million to 36 million. Combine that with the blessing of longer lives. Caring for the elderly, many of whom develop multiple chronic health problems, is the most expensive part of healthcare.
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