The core of the German health-care system is the statutory health insurance (SHI). Coverage of the SHI has remained fairly constant at about 90% whereas the rest of the population is insured for the most part with private health insurance. The primary goal of health-care reforms since the 1990s has been to contain the expenditure of the SHI. The primary measures to do this have been the introduction of budgets and a shift of expenditure towards private households mainly in the form of benefit exclusions and increased co-payments. So far these measures did not have a negative effect on broad outcome measures such as life expectancy, which continued to rise, and self-assessed health of the population, which remained stable in the period 1992--2002. Besides cost containment another leitmotif of reform have been attempts to increase competition both between sickness funds and providers of care. These two strands of reforms also affected the incentive structures for both insurers and providers in various ways which this article describes. The immediate future of health-care reform will concern the mode of financing of the SHI which centres on the question if contributions proportional to income shall be maintained or if there shall be a radical shift towards flat-rate health premiums.
Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.