Eliminating the practice fee pleases doctors and patients
As usual, doctor's offices across Germany are currently well filled after the holidays. However, there is one major difference compared to previous years: Patients no longer have to bring a ten euro practice fee for their treatment. To the delight of the patients, the medical profession and ultimately also the health insurers, the politicians decided with the consent of all parties to abolish the practice fee from January 1st, 2013.
There is currently praise from all sides for the absence of the practice fee. The patients are happy that they no longer have to pay ten euros per quarter, the doctors are grateful for the elimination of the bureaucratic effort and the health insurance companies have no objection to the abolition of the practice fee due to the lack of control function of the practice fee. From the beginning, the practice fee was particularly controversial from a social point of view. Because some patients are unable to raise ten euros at any time. They have to reschedule their visits to the doctor, which can have serious health consequences, since the delays in the diagnosis mean that treatment begins later. According to the experts, such delays cause follow-up costs that already consume part of the additional income from the practice fee.
Doctors welcomed the end of the practice fee The doctors' criticism of the practice fee was primarily aimed at the amount of work involved in claiming it. For example, the doctors had to take the ten euros from the patients each quarter, keep them safe and then transfer them to the health insurance companies. If a patient had already paid ten euros to another doctor for the quarter, he was not asked to checkout again as long as the relevant receipt could be presented. Otherwise, the doctors first had to collect ten euros and hand over the money to the patient when the document was presented later. All in all, the practice fee for the medical profession meant an enormous administrative effort, which was also at the expense of the treatment time for the patient. By eliminating the practice fee, the practice process is now considerably simplified again, since there is no longer any need to check the practice fee at reception and there is also no cash management. The doctors save costs and can concentrate more intensively on the patients. For good reason, the statutory health insurance associations of the federal states, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and other medical organizations have therefore campaigned massively for the practice fee to be abolished.
Lack of control function of the practice fee In the eight years of its existence, the practice fee had not even fully met the expectations placed on it by some sides. The desired control function failed to materialize. Fortunately, as some medical and patient organizations emphasized. If the fee had resulted in the spread of diseases, this would not have been beneficial for the health of the patients and would also have entailed additional follow-up costs. Even the health insurance companies are therefore largely pleased with the abolition of the practice fee. However, they are currently also in the comfortable situation of massive surpluses. If the health insurance companies had no billions of reserves, more resistance would probably have been expected on their part. However, given the financial cushion of around 23 billion euros in the health fund and health insurance companies, there are currently no objections to the abolition of the practice fee.
National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and Chamber of Physicians satisfied The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Statutory Health Insurance Association (KBV), Dr. Andreas Köhler emphasized in a press release at the end of December: "We are happy that the practice fee will be abolished and the doctors will be able to take care of their actual task, the treatment of their patients, again." Resident doctors, psychotherapists and their teams had to spend an average of 120 hours a year on collecting and acknowledging the practice fee for the health insurance companies, explained Dr. Köhler This was time that was missing in patient care, but was urgently needed there. Immediately after the decision to abolish the practice fee at the beginning of November, the President of the German Medical Association, Prof. Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, expressly welcomed and confirmed the decision that "practice fee was wrong from the start". Overall, there is apparently currently no one who regrets abolishing the practice fee. The only question is why the controversial fee persisted for eight years. (fp)
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