Calls for dental care to be cut from public health insurance coverage
Alongside visits to your GP and treatments in hospital, statutory health insurance in Germany covers basic dental care. However, with providers currently facing a funding deficit of more than 17 billion euros for 2023, the head of one public health insurance provider has called for dental treatments to be cut from the coverage.
Head of IKK calls for dental care to no longer be covered by public insurance
In an interview with the Handelsblatt, Ralf Hermes, head of the IKK Krankenkasse, said that some drastic - and most likely unpopular - cuts were needed to help alleviate the chronic underfunding of health insurance in Germany. His big savings idea is to cut benefits in three areas: dental treatments, dentures and homoeopathy.
“It would be appropriate… to remove all dental care from the catalogue of services,” said Hermes, whose IKK fund insures around 300.000 people in Germany. He pointed out that last year almost 13 billion euros was spent by public health insurance on visits to dentists, including tooth fillings, root canal treatments and check-ups.
Hermes told the Handelsblatt that this was an area that could be “strongly influenced by prevention”, adding: “If you brush your teeth properly twice a day, you will have almost no problems.” He said that statutory health insurance companies should take a closer look at this.
Spending rising in German healthcare system
Last year, overall expenditure in the German healthcare system rose to 263,41 billion euros. The federal republic has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world, but critics argue that this cost doesn’t seem to translate into significantly better care.
However, the Handelsblatt writes that figures from the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds show that the healthcare system's financial situation is expected to ease in the coming year, with the deficit falling to between 3,5 and 7 billion euros in 2024. It is expected that this deficit will be absorbed by an increase in the contribution rate to social security - by around 0,2 to 0,4 percentage points.
Government shows no appetite to cut evidence-based medical services
“We in the governing coalition agree that we cannot, do not want, and must not cut anything in the basic and evidence-based medical services,” the FDP’s health policy spokesperson, Andrew Ullmann, told the Handelsblatt.
He did however add that the cost of certain “measures whose effectiveness has not been proven or cannot be proven” - with a nod to homoeopathy - should not be taken on by health insurers. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach previously suggested that homoeopathy would be removed as a benefit in statutory healthcare. Following Hermes’ comments, Lauterbach took to Twitter to reject the suggestion to cut dental care. “Benefit cuts will not come,” he said.