Corona brings health insurance companies to their financial limits

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The costs of the corona crisis are a burden on health insurance companies. The Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance company warns against a drastic increase in additional contributions to the statutory health insurance schemes and calls for the state to take countermeasures. Private health insurers are also likely to become more expensive.

The head of the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), Jens Baas, warns of rising additional contributions to the statutory health insurance funds. "Next year, the health fund will lack over 16 billion euros, not solelybut also due to the pandemic," he told the Dusseldorf-based "Rheinische Post".

He added that the federal government will only provide a subsidy of five billion euros in 2021, so that the health insurance funds have to close the gap. This will increase the additional contributions of all statutory health insurance funds, the question is only when and by how much. Already in 2021, the insurance companiesare going to increasepremiums. A tightening is expected for 2022, when the additional contributions are expected to double, if the state does not take countermeasures.

Baas explained that the actual treatment costs of Covid-19 patients can be financed by the health insurance companies, as this is ultimately their task. "The situation is different for the costs that arise, for example, due to the rescue parachutes," he told the "Rheinische Post". "Wide-ranging corona tests, setting up intensive care beds and purchasing protective equipment - this must not be left to the contributors to the statutory health insurance funds to pay for it unilaterally".

Expenditure by health insurance funds increased only moderately during the Corona crisis. Several operations were postponed and patients went to the doctor less often, which has reduced the financial expenditure of the health insurance companies.

The bottom line, however, is that cost pressure has risen significantly recently, says Sigrid Koenig, head of the Bavarian Association of Company Health Insurance Funds. As an example, she cites surcharges for nursing staff that the federal government wants to introduce. These additional expenses are very welcome for nurses, says Koenig, but they will place a massive burden on the health insurance fund contributors.

In addition, the pandemic weakens the economy, which is why contributions are falling. While costs are rising, the times of bubbling revenues for the statutory health insurance funds are over. Because their contributions are linked to wages, they benefited from the previously good economic situation until the outbreak of the Corona crisis. But now unemployment is rising and wages are stagnating.

The Federal Government wants to close this gap in the health insurance funds' finances by increasing its subsidy from tax revenues on the one hand, while the funds are to significantly reduce reserves and, if necessary, increase contributions.

But health insurance companies think this is the wrong way to go. Irmgard Stippler, chairwoman of the board of AOK Bayern, demands that the federal government raise the tax subsidy for statutory health insurance far more than previously announced. In this way, all citizens would contribute their share through taxes to cover the higher health costs, says Stippler. The head of the AOK also sees a breach of the government's promise that the corona costs should not be paid for by higher contributions from employees and employers.

Private health insurers are also likely to see a significant increase in premiums in the coming year. As reported by the "Handelsblatt", the Association of Private Health Insurance (PKV) expects an average increase in rates of 8.1 per cent. One of the largest providers, Debeka, is even aiming for an increase of 17.6 per cent from January.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

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