Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Doctor Strikes

To make some sense out of this German doctor strike business.....(for an American) have to understand how things work in Germany.

Everyone has health insurance, which the private citizen pays into and the company matches.  There are health insurance companies involved in the mess, which are dictated to provide "X" number of services as part of the overall program.  So these health insurance companies meet that goal, with the fee that is dictated by the government.  At that point, the companies can provide a few other services (like you have a semi-private room, which wouldn't have)....which makes each company slightly different and in some cases....better for certain people.

The other side of that the fees are set in stone and doctors have to do clinics.  For years, they've been unhappy about the rates and this year....they threatened to strike.  A deal was worked out a couple of days ago, at the last minute, but doctors carried through their strike threat anyway (on Wednesday).  How many participated?  It might be a couple of days, but you can figure at least fifty thousand stayed make their point.

The agreement?  Well....what happens in a year or so....will be increased costs that are passed onto the citizens in some fashion.  It might be a visit fee deal, or the monthly cost, or maybe even cutting some of the optional benefits that they provide currently.  Somehow, you have to lose in the end.

Germans will argue on both sides of this debate.  They know the doctors take in less than most American doctors, but they point out that this is a profession....not a business.  Course, the doctor will say that they pay taxes like every German, take vacations, and think they deserve a pay raise every couple of years (of substance).

The Channel One folks (ARD), have done a survey and shown that barely six percent of the population agrees with the doctors.  There's likely no support that makes further strikes of necessity.  Whatever the insurance companies agreed likely the end of this story and the doctors are simply showing their power.  In four years, I would imagine that the doctors will come back to discuss the next round.

The bottom line?  There is no such thing as free health care, in Germany.  There's no such thing as cheap health care, in Germany.  There's no such thing as reasonable health care at a certain cost, in Germany.  The cost can only move upward, with speed being the only question mark.

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