The German healthcare system is one of Europe’s oldest, dating back to the 1880s. It has been regarded for a while as one of Europe’s most efficient healthcare systems, and now its world-class facilities and specialists are driving the country even further.
Germany has what is known as a ‘universal multi-payer’ healthcare system, which is paid for by both statutory and private health insurance. A multi-payer system allows many different entities or organisations to pay for the health services. A single-payer system would allow the government more control over how the healthcare resources in the country are distributed, however Germany’s consumers have a very wide range of preferences in terms of their healthcare, hence a multi-payer system is more beneficial to them. According to the WHO, as of 2004, around 77% of Germany’s healthcare is funded by the government and the rest is privately funded, and healthcare in Germany is free for all to use (similar to our NHS). Consumers can choose to receive private healthcare if they wish for certain procedures or higher care, however they must of course pay for this.1
An advantage perhaps that the German healthcare system has over our NHS is that it’s considerably more stable and is more adequately funded. German citizens are required by law to pay social insurance contributions into a health fund, which is about 7.5% taken directly from their salaries (although employers do contribute 50% of their pay). This money is collected by several organisations that then invest it into the system, thus ensuring that a balanced and adequate amount of funding goes into the different sectors of healthcare. On average, Germany spends 11.1% of its GDP on healthcare, whereas the UK spends 9.8%, although this can vary depending on which political party is in power. As is similar with other members of the European Union, EU citizens visiting Germany can receive the same level of healthcare as German citizens, and instead of paying for this the cost of treatment is charged to the home country of the EU citizen. Healthcare is also free at the point of use for EU citizens visiting the UK, however a large increase in the treatment of such individuals puts even more strain on the already over-burdened NHS in the UK – a problem that Germany’s healthcare system can better manage due both its lower demand and its better funding.2
Germany ranked 12th on the Euro Health Consumer Index in 2018, having been praised for the wide choice of treatment available to customers. In general across Germany however there are a low number of specialist hospitals, which may mean that high levels of specialist care that customers wish for isn’t always available.
Despite the seemingly flawless healthcare system, there is a problem with private health insurance in Germany. Those with higher salaries and better lifestyles can afford private insurance, thus they can access treatment of higher quality in general. Furthermore, every German citizen has to pay a fee of around 15 Euros for their first medical visit every quarter, however those with private health insurance can reclaim this money. Nevertheless, the law requiring all citizens to pay a part of their salaries to fund the system means that the cost of healthcare is primarily shouldered by the better-off, with the several insurance organisations being able to effectively manage the country’s healthcare needs and provide services. Many other countries would largely benefit from such an efficient and well-structured system, and the high levels of satisfaction shown by German citizens emphasises just how important free healthcare for everyone is.3
- Healthcare in Germany (2020), Wikimedia Commons, [online] Last accessed 18 August 2020: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Germany
- Expatica (2020), The German healthcare system: a guide to healthcare in Germany, [online] Last accessed 18 August 2020: https://www.expatica.com/de/healthcare/healthcare-basics/german-healthcare-system-103359/
- NBC News (2019), Is Germany’s health care system a model for the U.S.?, [online] Last accessed 18 August 2020: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/germany-s-health-care-system-model-u-s-n1024491