Minister of Health: Too many operations

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Federal Minister of Health Daniel Bahr criticizes high hospital costs and wants to reduce the number of operations

The federal government is looking for ways to reduce the oversupply of certain services or operations. As the Federal Minister of Health Daniel Bahr (FDP) explained in an interview with the "Rheinische Post", it is currently being examined which additional "economic incentives can reduce the ever increasing number of cases in the clinics".

According to the Minister of Health, the increasing number of operations is one of the reasons for the increase in costs in the hospital sector. Obviously, there is an oversupply in certain operations. "Germany is considered the world champion in endoprostheses for knees and hips," said Bahr. According to the minister, "health insurance companies and experts doubt whether the increase in the number of cases is necessary." Such increases in operations burdened employees and patients, Bahr continued.

Clinic costs are a major cost driver in the healthcare system According to the Federal Minister of Health, the trend to be observed makes it necessary to limit the increasing number of operations in German hospitals. In order to keep costs under control, the federal government is currently examining “how we can reduce the increasing number of cases in clinics through further economic incentives.” The costs of statutory health insurance (GKV) for hospitals in 2011 were around the previous record high of around 60 billion euros increased. In view of the figures, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds emphasized that hospital costs are becoming one of the main cost drivers in the healthcare system. According to the Federal Statistical Office, almost 300 billion euros are now spent annually on health in Germany, with a large part going to statutory health insurers.

Health insurance companies are supposed to pay out premiums to insured persons. Despite the rising expenditure in the health care system, statutory health insurance companies were able to build up high reserves in the past year and the health fund shows a clear surplus. According to the Federal Minister of Health, health insurers with high reserves should now repay contributions to their insured. "We are examining how we can put more pressure on health insurers to return the money they do not need to care for the insured to their members," said Bahr. The minister is thinking about the distribution of premiums, as is already practiced at some health insurance companies. The health insurance companies with particularly high reserves could pay premiums to their insured, but "so far, too few health insurance companies have made use of this option," emphasized Daniel Bahr.

Structural reform of the hospital sector With regard to rising hospital costs, the deputy chairman of the GKV umbrella association, Johann-Magnus von Stackelberg, had already advocated a structural reform of the hospitals in February in order to bring the growth in expenditure under control. However, von Stackelberg's advance did not go quite as far as the chairman of the Barmer GEK, Christoph Straub, at the beginning of the year when he called for the austerity measures in the hospital sector to be fully implemented, in the event of doubt accepting the closure of clinics and, in the future, the medical Practicing care much more on an outpatient basis or during short hospital stays. (fp)

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