DAK crisis: Dismantling of staff threatens

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Crisis mood at the German employee health insurance: Due to financial difficulties there is a risk of massive staff cuts. The Federal Insurance Office is meanwhile pressing for the DAK's deficit to be remedied. Higher additional contributions could threaten.

In view of the financial problems of the German employee health insurance (DAK), the Federal Insurance Office (BVA) feels forced to intervene. The BVA is pressing for the reorganization of the third largest German health insurance company. Now there are cuts at around 16,000 employees and possibly higher additional contributions. According to the BVA, savings in services would also be conceivable.

Problems of the DAK have been known for some time The media have long reported significant financial problems at the DAK. Last year, the DAK had already asked its members to make an additional contribution of eight euros in order to get the deficit under control. However, by the end of the year, the health insurer's financial reserves were apparently almost exhausted. As reported by the “Financial Times Deutschland”, DAK's reserves at the end of 2010 were only 33 million euros - according to legal requirements, it should have been a good 352 million euros. The BVA has no direct authority to issue directives, but given the tight financial situation, the higher federal authority was forced to intervene. In a cover letter, the BVA asked the DAK to increase the additional contribution or to reduce administrative or personnel costs in order to remedy the deficit. Many insured people are now wondering whether the health insurance company is increasing the existing additional contribution. As of Friday, the head office announced immediately that there was no plan to increase the additional contribution. Finally, it is assumed that the "financial situation of the DAK will develop positively". A surplus of around 200 million euros is expected by the end of the year, as a spokesman for the fund said. A surplus of around 62 million was also achieved last year. The budget was approved by the BVA by the end of the year. Until then, there is an "intensive exchange" with the authority.

Health insurance company affected by massive loss of members The financial imbalance at the third largest German health insurance company causes concern in the industry. The fact that the DAK was barely able to avoid bankruptcy despite the additional contributions raised raises some questions about how to cope with impending deficits. The path proposed by BVA to reorganize finances could also be the wrong approach. The deficit of the DAK is partly due to the fact that around 500,000 predominantly young, healthy members have left the DAK and only 200,000 new customers could be won. A kind of negative selection is currently taking place at the DAK. Older, health-impaired insured who are currently receiving benefits tend to stay in the DAK, which means that the costs of corresponding medical services increase dramatically. The additional contribution that the DAK made to compensate for the financing gap last year turned out to be counterproductive, as countless members left the DAK due to the additional eight euros per month. In addition, the additional contribution was not paid by numerous insured persons, so that the DAK recently passed on the data of 220,000 defaulting members to the main customs offices, so that they demand the outstanding contributions. As a last step, the debtors face the seizure of their salary or pension, the DAK explained at the beginning of March.

Further job cuts planned at DAK But according to reports by the “Financial Times Deutschland”, the current additional contributions from DAK are apparently not sufficient to cover the financial deficit. DAK employees are now threatened with job cuts, although DAK spokesman Jörg Bodanowitz emphasized that 650 full-time positions have recently been cut and the number of employees will be further reduced as part of the "normal fluctuation". The DAK boss Herbert Rebscher spoke to the “Berliner Zeitung” last week about a significant job reduction and explained that individual branches may also have to be closed. In total, around 3,000 jobs at DAK have already been “cut in a socially responsible manner” since 2004, and personnel will also be saved this year, the DAK boss emphasized. However, the DAK did not want to confirm the financial problems and referred to an operating surplus of 62 million euros in 2010 and an expected surplus of around 200 million euros for 2011. However, the fact that the operating surplus last year was due to subsequent corrections to the disease-oriented financial equalization is turned into a deficit of 79 million, the DAK does not mention here.

Serious problem due to the collection of additional contributions? The DAK is apparently in a kind of vicious circle, in which hundreds of thousands of members have left the health insurance due to the additional contribution, the deficit subsequently increased and the DAK is now forced to reduce its existing staff and offices. With staff cuts and the closure of offices, the service for members threatens to deteriorate significantly, which could also cause loss of members and further increase the financial deficit. This would mean that higher additional contributions to compensate for the deficit would have to be raised again and the cycle would continue. In the end, the continuation of the insurance threatens to fail due to a lack of liquidity. However, the DAK, the third largest German health insurance company, cannot simply go bankrupt, as the 4.5 million paying members and just under six million insured could not easily be accommodated in another insurance company. This would be useful for what the critical expert Rolf Stuppardt from the Federal Association of the Guild Funds had suspected in the past year: some health insurance companies have now reached a systemically important size (similar to the banking crisis), so that the state can in the event of a possible bankruptcy Intervention is forced.

DAK denies higher additional contributions The DAK was annoyed by the current media reports and emphasized that they lack any basis. The BVA also "formulated a little misleadingly" in its letter, because "the BVA is not our superior authority", emphasized the DAK spokesman Jörg Bodanowitz. And while the DAK also talks openly about a reduction in staff when it comes to job cuts, "nobody (...) think about increasing the additional contribution", Jörg Bodanowitz emphasized to the "Hamburger Abendblatt". In view of the painful experiences with the additional contributions in the past year, the DAK is apparently sensitized and particularly tries to avoid higher additional contributions for the time being. Meanwhile, the BVA has also reacted to the current media reports and stressed that the DAK is neither threatened by bankruptcy nor one Request by the BVA to raise the additional contribution. For the year 2011, the DAK presented a budget, which was not objected to by the cash supervisory authority and which provides for the creation of sufficient reserves, the BVA corrected to the contrary in press articles. (fp)

Read on this topic:
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Image: Benjamin Klack / pixelio.de

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