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Germany

Compromise on healthcare reform broadens coalition rift

Germany's coalition government reached a compromise on plugging a multi-billion euro gap in the national heathcare system last week, but the days following have uncovered big doubts within the coalition parties.

A stethoscope in front of euro bills

The health system faces a budget gap of 11 billion euros

Just days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition struck a deal to revamp the country's healthcare system, senior members of the governing parties have expressed doubts about the bill.

Leading members of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their junior partners, the Free Democrats (FDP) ended months of intense debate on Tuesday of last week when they agreed on a compromise to fill next year's 11-billion euro ($13.95 billion) gap in healthcare funding.

A major provision in the bill, crafted by Health Minister Philipp Roesler, would raise the mandatory health insurance premium, which is shared by employers and employees ,to 15.5 percent of wages, up from the current 14.9 percent.

Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, told public broadcaster Deutschlandradio Kultur that the reform may only last a few years. He added that he could only breathe easily when politicians say: "We have now found long-term funding, and it's going to last."

Stanislaw Tillich

Tillich said the bill could not stand in its current form

Seeds of discontent

Despite agreement in Berlin, some coalition party leaders on the state level were openly rebellious. The CDU's Stanislaw Tillich, premier of Saxony, told the daily Leipziger Volkszeitung that the bill must be amended if the government hoped for parliament's approval.

"There are a lot of things to talk about," he said. "What was agreed in Berlin definitely cannot be the final outcome."

Baden-Wuerttemberg's CDU premier, Stephan Mappus, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the bill "isn't the (promised) big stride forward yet."

The rifts over healthcare come at a time when Merkel's coalition has been losing support among the electorate. A poll conducted earlier this month for public broadcaster ARD showed that 79 percent of respondents were either "less satisfied" or "not at all satisfied" with the work of the government.

In addition, both business lobbies and trade unions have voiced their disapproval for the bill.

Author: Andrew Bowen (Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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