AOK and politics: Practice doctors work too little

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Doctors work too little? Federal Minister of Health wants to take action against long waiting times at specialists

The future chairman of the federal association of the AOK accuses the practice doctors of not spending enough time for insured persons with statutory health insurance. The Federal Ministry of Health is currently preparing an amendment to the law so that waiting times for insured patients are reduced, with the threat of a loss of fees for the resident doctors.

As already reported, a survey of general practitioners and specialists on behalf of the Federal Association of General Local Health Insurance Funds (AOK) showed that general practitioners spend 47 hours and specialists only 39 hours a week for those insured by law. With the health insurance associations, however, a fee calculation of 51 hours for health insurance patients was used. The designated AOK federal executive board Jürgen Graalmann criticized the medical profession, after all, the physicians would spend too little working hours for legally insured patients, even though they received the full remuneration. Graalmann sees the main reason for the sometimes long waiting times for specialist appointments.

The Federal Ministry of Health has now intervened in the ongoing debate. Health Minister Daniel Bahr (FDP) is currently preparing a bill that, among other things, provides for threatening doctors with a drop in salary if the appointment for health insurance patients is oversized. Federal Minister of Health Bahr told "NDR Info" that he "wanted to act against unfounded and unjustified waiting times". The black and yellow coalition is currently discussing various proposals, as a spokesman for the ministry confirmed to the radio station. "In practice, arranging appointments with specialists is becoming increasingly difficult," as the new draft law on medical care says.

Waiting times for patients arise when general practitioners refer their patients to specialists. If the waiting times are too long, the patient must be given “last resort for outpatient treatment in a clinic in the future,” as the draft law states. However, this would result in additional costs for the health system. The Federal Ministry of Health therefore plans to bill the statutory health insurance associations for the additional costs. The increased administrative expenses should also be borne by the medical associations as a lump sum. In practice, this would mean for the resident doctors that the fees will be much lower in the future, because the responsible medical associations would have less funding.

The future AOK boss had asked the medical representatives to ensure that the agreed contracts were kept, since the insured ultimately paid the full benefits with their contributions. Graalmann, however, excluded any intentions to cut.

Not only the AOK, but also the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV) has repeatedly complained that specialists in particular prefer private patients to appointments. In some cases, health insurance patients also have to wait for a specialist appointment for weeks. Politicians now want to take a more targeted approach to treating patients differently. The medical profession had rejected all allegations at the weekend. After all, doctors would spend more hours than paid. (sb)

Also read:
AOK: Resident doctors work too little
GKV calls for the closure of 12,000 medical practices
Doctor's appointments: health insurance patients are disadvantaged
Hardly any useful additional services at the doctor
High patient dissatisfaction

Image: Thommy Weiss /

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