Sickness Funds in Germany

The film I would like to reflect on is Frontline:Sick around the world. I found this film very moving in a disturbing way. It makes me both sad and very nervous how much worse our healthcare seems to be. T.R. Reid is the man in the film performing the interviews and traveling all around the world to get people’s, professional or otherwise, perspective on healthcare. He visits the UK, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and Taiwan. All of these countries have capitalist healthcare plans. Which he says is a little “too much government” for American taste. There are no reports of medical bankruptcy, and denial of health insurance does not exist, in fact the insurance providers are not allowed to deny people coverage. Overall this film makes these healthcare plans seem much better than ours, they make it seem as if the US has some catching up to do, or a reform to plan.

The healthcare providers in Germany are mainly doctors. There are also many other forms of alternative medicine offered in Germany, like spas and homeopathic medicines. The doctors are either private practice doctors, that make up to 120,000 a year, or independent mostly non-profit hospitals, these doctors make up to 80,000 a year. The private practice doctors can act as gatekeepers and refer the patients to specialized or alternative care. Although the doctors in Germany feel undervalued and underpaid, medical school is free and the premium that must be paid every year is only 1/10th that of which US doctors have to pay.

The system works in a capitalist fashion. Everything is covered through health insurance, including dental, vision, inpatient care, and even alternative means such as spa treatments. Employers  pay most of the care coverage and the other portion is paid by the employee. Even when the employee is unemployed, the coverage remains the same. This coverage is run like a private market, meaning the prices are set by the individual states, or Länder. The private doctors and hospitals are non-profit and can’t raise their prices. The people pay premiums based on their income that goes to one of several insurance companies, these funds are called “sickness funds”, or Krankenkassen. These sickness funds are what give the doctors competition. The more customers you have or the more satisfied your customers the more the sickness funds grow and the more your pay grows. The German style healthcare seems more efficient, more fair, and more stable. “The Germans have taken the profit out of healthcare and lowered the pay for doctors, there’s a lot here we need to catch up on”, says T.R. Reid at the end of the video, I don’t think it could be said any more perfectly.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Keiana Smith says:

    Hi Angela, I also enjoyed the film “Sickness Around the World” and found it to be very interesting. It is heartbreaking and almost disturbing to know that compared to these countries, the United States is far behind in affordable healthcare. Being a health professional myself, I see how the Emergency Rooms are constantly bombarded and used as a primary care instead of emergency. This is due to a lot of Americans not having healthcare coverage whether they can’t afford it or unemployed. I always agreed with paying more taxes if meant that I could go to college for “free” and not have to worry about paying tuition or student loans, and go to see my doctor of choice for “free” and not have to worry about paying a huge medical bill. Yes, some people may feel that the government is too involved in healthcare and some may view as not a good thing, but there is an up side to having the government involved. First, what we learned from the film was once a “rate” or “financial budget” was set for that year or two, that was the rate that the doctors and hospitals had to charge and they could not change it under any cirucumstance. Next, the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies could not big profits or raise the cost of insurance under any circumstance. In fact, they were competing for business from the patients/policy holders. Lastly, the citizens of these countries got to keep their insurance policy at the same rate whether they wer employed or not. It almost seemed like the people are in control of the healthcare systems. I understand that the doctors may not make as much money as the doctors in the United Staes, but I think they all agree that it is important that each person has healthcare coverage. I loved your post Angela and great job of explaining the film in summary and your opinions.

  2. Taylor Young says:

    Hey Angela!

    I would definitely agree with you when you said you found the film “Frontline: Sick Around the World” moving in a disturbing way. I thought the film dedicated just enough time to each country to give the viewer a peek inside the way other health care systems work. It’s sad that the US, being as powerful as it is, can’t seem to compete with other countries health care systems. The US works more for a profit than for bettering their country’s citizens’ health. Every single country’s health care system that was examined thought that it was absurd that people could actually go bankrupt from medical bills. I think the US could step off its high horse for just a moment and look around at the other health care systems. I don’t think the number one priority of hospitals or doctors should be profit. It should be first and foremost the patients they administer. I think we should attempt a trial basis similar to the way Germany runs their health care system: have set prices for health care coverage. Or perhaps a trial basis similar to the way Taiwan runs their health care system: a combination hybrid system formed from different countries health care systems. The Taiwanese health care system has equal access to health care for everyone, free choice of doctors with no waiting time, and competition between medical providers. I think the US could take some notes and try to reform their health care system like the Taiwanese have. Great post Angela. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your accurate summary of the film.

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