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Panel proposes major overhaul of German hospital financing

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BERLIN — An expert panel unveiled a proposal Tuesday for a major overhaul of Germany’s system for funding hospitals that it says would promote quality over quantity, ending what some described as a “hamster wheel” system where clinics tried to perform as many procedures as possible.

The government-appointed panel of independent experts suggested putting hospitals into three categories, depending on the level of care they provide, with different requirements and financing systems for each.

The goal is to ensure patients have access to primary care near their homes, while concentrating specialist treatment in hospitals with top expertise, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said.

“At the moment mediocrity and quantity are honored too often,” he said. “In future, quality and suitability alone should be the criteria for good care.”

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Between 40-60% of hospital funding will be earmarked for the basic services hospitals have to provide, while the rest will be paid on a per-case basis, according to the proposal.

Germany has 50% more hospital beds and treatments than its European neighbors, said Dr. Tom Bschor, a Berlin-based doctor who heads the panel. “Staff and money are being gobbled up by the hamster wheel of the current system.”

The new system, which the panel proposed phasing in over a five-year period, is likely to face opposition from some lawmakers worried about the impacts on their constituency hospitals.

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