Sick Notes

Health Insurance Companies in the Spotlight

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s public health insurance system is one of the oldest in the world. Industry experts fear that with an ever aging population, the system is in need of reform.

  • Facts


    • The origins of Germany’s public health insurance system can be traced back to the rule of Otto von Bismarck, the country’s first chancellor.
    • Nowadays, the system is financed by a fund of some €220 billion. It is used by 90 percent of Germans.
    • Industry insiders claim that insurance companies are engaging in some questionable practices.
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Patients are being mistreated by health insurance companies, according to some experts. Source: dpa

Claudia Lenke (not her real name) has had serious hearing problems since she was a teenager. In recent years, the 39-year-old dental assistant’s hearing has gotten progressively worse.

Though she has managed to get by at work by reading patients’ lips, she long held out hope that a more advanced hearing aid would drastically improve her day-to-day life. Her health insurance provider, however, denied her application for a high-quality device.

Germany’s public health-care system may be the envy of much of the world, and unlike the U.S. health-care system hasn’t changed fundamentally for decades, but that reputation belies a growing number of systemic maladies, industry experts say.

They argue that the system, which harks back to the days of Germany’s first chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, is failing in its key mission: to ensure the well-being of patients.

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