European Politics

Topics: Medicine, Health economics, Universal health care Pages: 7 (2479 words) Published: February 18, 2002
Throughout Europe, a complex political structure of government has emerged from the once simple Monarchial rule. These new systems of Government, with respect to specific nation-states, have developed domestic policies that people depend on for daily life. Of these many dependencies is the health care system. The nation-states of Europe are entitled to bring forth and confront these issues, in order to ensure a sense of safety and well being into the lives of everyday citizens. The significance of the health care system is that it is an issue people are always trying to reform and build upon. Working alongside this idea, is the notion that other countries will develop intellectual health care systems from understanding those system already put into effect. This was the case with the German system of insured care, and the subsequent formation of the Hungarian health insurance system. In laying out the design of both systems, it is evident that the Hungarian health care system was based upon the founding principles of the German health care system.

Established by Otto von Bismarck in 1883, the German system has been continually extended to reflect the changing assortment of diseases and technological progress. Germany may be the only country in which most beneficiaries of its long-term care system and related expenditures are in community-based rather than institutional settings, according to the authors of the German study. (Moran 77) Germany's attempt to improve coverage for long-term care reached a fever pitch in the early 1990s, when West German policymakers sought to bring means-tested, state-administered long-term care services into its universal health insurance fold. In 1994 the country enacted a universal-coverage social insurance program for long-term care, called Soziale Pflegeversicherung, which was administered by "sickness funds," quasi-public and quasi-private insurers regulated by the national government. Under this program, premiums are uniform-a straight 1.7 percent of salary, split between employers and employees. (Knox 13) Benefits include extensive institutional and home care services. Informal caregivers receive up to four weeks of respite care each year, as well as a pension credit for providing high levels of unpaid services. In 1998 alone, some 550,000 people received pension contributions as caregivers. Germany's program has succeeded in increasing the availability of nursing home and home care services, as well as the number of home care providers, the study authors report. Program costs stayed well below original estimates and led to surpluses of nearly $5 billion.(Knox 104) The German health care system has long been viewed as a model that controls costs and provides nearly all of its citizens with coverage while also maintaining a separate private market to reflect supply and demand for health services. In Germany, health insurance is one of the four branches of the social insurance system, the other three branches being accident insurance, retirement insurance, and unemployment insurance. "Entitlements of the health system are generous and benefits include primary care, hospital care, dental care, rehabilitation, and preventive care. Approximately 88 percent of the German population is insured with one of the compulsory SHI sickness funds, while at the same time ten percent of the population is fully covered by private health insurance (PHI). These people are employees with incomes above the measurable maximum amount and self-employed persons who have the choice of opting out of the SHI system to join a private insurer. The key participants in the German health care system are patients, who are members of statutory or private insurance funds. There are about 1,300 autonomous statutory sickness funds in Germany with 51 million members. (Stone 68) The sickness funds, at the local level, geographically cover the entire country and act as collecting tanks for people for whom...
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