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Germany

Germany passes controversial health care reform bill

The German parliament has passed a controversial healthcare reform aimed at combating a multi-billion-euro deficit in the healthcare system. The reform will mean higher insurance contributions for Germany's workers.

A stethescope in front of a pile of euros

Healthcare will be more expensive starting next year

The German health ministry's controversial plan to fight the huge deficit it faces in 2011 cleared its final hurdle on Friday, as the German parliament passed the healthcare bill that has stirred up controversy since being proposed earlier in the year.

The conservative faction of parliament, composed of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as well as Merkel's junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), voted in favor of the reform bill, which is aimed at financing the forecast 9 billion euro ($12 billion) healthcare deficit.

The three opposition parties in German parliament, the Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party, and Left Party all voted against the reform, which will mean higher health insurance fees for employees will be raised from 7.9 to 8.3 percent of gross salary.

The employer's contribution, meanwhile, will remain at 7.3 percent, with any future increases to be paid for only by workers.

'Disastrous turn'

The head of Sozialverband Deutschland (SoVD), an organization that protects social rights in Germany, called the reform a "disastrous turn" in the country's healthcare system.

"The patients and the people insured are forced to bear the brunt of this reform," SoVD President Adolf Bauer said.

German Health Minister Philipp Roesler

Criticism of Roesler's plan has been ubiquitous

"Those who earn less money are the ones paying for the health ministry's deficit. This is a heavy blow for the balance between rich and poor in our country, which will soon mean between the sick and the healthy," Bauer added, pledging to continue to fight the reform.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Philipp Roesler rejected criticism of the reform in parliament on Friday, saying it paved the way for a "sustainable and socially balanced" financing of the healthcare system.

The conservatives' parliamentary healthcare speaker, Jens Spahn, echoed Roesler's sentiments, accusing the opposition of "misapprehending the reality of the situation."

"Healthcare costs are rising, regardless of how we finance them," Spahn said.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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