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September 15, 2005

More Signs of Convergence in Germany

There are more signs that Germany's Economic system is transforming and becoming more like their liberal counterparts in the US and UK.

Germans Feel Health Squeeze (WSJ Subscription Required)

BERLIN -- Since 2001, the Malteser Social Service has offered free medical care to asylum-seekers, travelers and refugees. Now, the walk-in clinic has a new group of patients: ordinary Germans.

Squeezed by the country's new get-tough welfare changes and its stagnant economy, at least 300,000 Germans went without medical insurance last year, according to estimates by insurance groups and experts. That is up from 188,000 in 2003, according to a government survey. While the figure pales beside the roughly 45 million uninsured in the U.S., it is worrying to a country that has prided itself on universal coverage.

The trend is one of the reasons for the unsettled mood in Germany ahead of this Sunday's general elections. The vote was called by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in part because he lost support of the left wing of his Social Democratic Party for pushing through overhauls. That helped create the first new major political party in Germany in a generation, the Left Party, which polls show as the third-largest party heading into the vote. It could play the role of spoiler, denying the usual left-of-center or right-of-center coalitions a majority.

"The state has pulled back more and more from care of the population," says Thorsten Rudnik, spokesman for the Association of the Insured. "Many people are calling the system into question."

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September 15, 2005 in Comparative Labor Relations, Globalization, Healthcare | Permalink

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