Health of Nations: Germany

It's been a long day, I desperately need some coffee, and it's really hot in my room. So you wouldn't believe how excited I am to dive into yet another country's health care structure. Let's just say I love you all very, very much. For those who've missed the previous three days of health wonkery, check out France, England and Canada. Today is Germany which, fun fact, Clinton Care was based off of.

Da Basics: Germany was the first nation to enact mandatory health insurance, doing so way back in 1883. The system is funded through employer contributions, with half the money coming from your paycheck and half coming from your employer. Participating Germans -- about 90% of the country -- are enrolled in "sickness funds", some of which are organized by geographical region, some of which are organized by trade, and some of which are organized by company. The funds are a mix between private and public entities and are all nonprofit. They can't discriminate, and can't charge customers at different rates corresponding to their health/age/lifestyle. That means no cherry-picking.

Various sickness funds have different contribution levels (so some will deduct 7% of your paycheck, others 8%), but all are required to cover a broad range of benefits (including prescription drugs) and demand only a modest copay. These funds, which are conducted through your employer, remain with you even after you lose or retire from a job. So if you're fired, your employer will still have to make contributions for you, but the government will take up your end of the bargain. Same deal if you retire, though in that case the sickness fund covers a bit less of your expenses and your retirement pension makes up the gap. The funds are administered by a board that's half company representatives and half worker representatives.

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