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Germany

Conservatives agree to Healthcare Reform

Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) announced on Monday it had ended a bitter internal dispute by hammering out a plan to reform the country's public health system. The proposal announced by CDU leader Angela Merkel and Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the party's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would see the introduction of a flat-rate premium of €109 ($141) for everyone insured with employers contributing a further €60. "If we get into power, we are now in a position to act immediately," Stoiber said. Under the current system, workers and employers pay a percentage of gross monthly pay depending on income. Employers' costs such as healthcare are a major obstacle to hiring in Europe's largest economy. However the German press criticized the compromise as overly bureaucratic and said it was unlikely to be introduced in its current form, even if the CDU defeats Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the general elections due in 2006. (AFP)