Public health insurance premiums seen spiking

The 71 million people covered by Germany’s statutory health insurance system may soon be forced to pay up to €840 ($1,195) per year over normal premiums, according to the the head of the state insurance association.

Public health insurance premiums seen spiking
Photo: DPA

Doris Pfeiffer of the GKV association told public broadcaster Deutschlandradio insurers faced spiralling costs from doctors, hospitals and drugs that must be passed onto consumers.

She said people with statutory health insurance could be slapped with special surcharges, or Zusatzbeiträge, of €50 to €70 a month.

“Such sums are conceivable and even required by government policy,” Pfeiffer said.

The grim outlook comes as controversy swirls around the recently bankrupt City BKK insurance company. Its customers, who tended to be older and less healthy, have struggled to find insurance with other statutory insurers, something Pfeiffer said should not be happening.

She said many insurance companies are struggling with increased costs but are afraid to increase required contributions because that might cause an exodus of members, pushing them towards insolvency like City BKK.

Green Party leader Cem Özdemir said Pfeiffer’s forecast showed, “that the health care system is ailing.” Harald Weinberg, with The Left party’s healthcare committee, said: “The time bomb is ticking.”

Germany’s Health Ministry, however, rejected the dire prognosis about surging health insurance costs.

“An increase in additional contributions of this magnitude is not expected in the foreseeable future,” said a spokesman. He added that the government projected health insurance surcharges to remain on average below €10 per month heading into the next year.

DPA/The Local/mdm

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Sweden records world’s first case of bird flu in a porpoise

A porpoise found stranded on a Swedish beach in June died of bird flu, the first time the virus has been detected in one of the marine mammals, Sweden's National Veterinary Institute said on Wednesday.

Sweden records world's first case of bird flu in a porpoise

“As far as we know this is the first confirmed case in the world of bird flu in a porpoise,” veterinarian Elina Thorsson said in a statement. “It is likely that the porpoise somehow came into contact with infected birds,” she said.

The young male was found stranded, alive, on a beach in western Sweden in late June. Despite efforts from the public to get it to swim out to deeper
waters, it was suffering from exhaustion and died the same evening.

The bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in several of its organs. “Contrary to seals, where illnesses caused by a flu virus have been detected multiple times, there have been only a handful of reports of flu virus in cetaceans”, Thorsson said.

The virus has also previously been detected in other mammals, including red foxes, otters, lynx and skunks, the institute said.

Europe and North America are currently seeing a vast outbreak of bird flu among wild birds.