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Germany

Social Democrats Propose Sweeping Health-Care Reform

After drastic cost-cutting steps imposed earlier this year, the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) aim to expand the revenue basis for the national health service, Andrea Nahles, the head of the party's health reform working group announced Sunday. The SPD proposes to slap statutory insurance premiums on profits gained from capital investment as well as on Germans at the top of the income scale who are presently allowed to opt out of state-run health schemes in favor of private insurance. Nahles said that the changes will achieve a reduction in insurance premiums by more than 1 percent and will keep them stable for up 15 years. Employers' representatives have said the SPD’s proposals are unlikely to lower premiums -- currently at a record 14 percent of income -- and therefore won’t reduce the high costs of labor in Germany. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said the plan would not be implemented before the next general election in 2006.