German hospital finance reform improves access to medical technologies

19 December 2008

The German parliament has paved the way for the use of more innovative medical technologies with the passing of the Hospital Financing Reform Act (Krankenhausfinanzierungsreformgesetz, KHRG) yesterday.

An amendment to the innovation clause (section 6 of the Hospital Reimbursement Act) will now offer hospitals the opportunity to request the reimbursement of innovative technologies for a patient of the health insurance funds in a flexible way instead of linking it to a set deadline, according to BVMed, the German medical technology association. "This is an important step towards an efficient and modern type of healthcare," said BVMed Director General and member of the board Joachim M Schmitt.

The innovation clause was the right decision made by the lawmakers, says BVMed. However, in practice little usage had been made of the reimbursement provided by the clause due to problems with its implementation. The decision made yesterday was a significant improvement, making the application and assessment procedure for new examination and treatment methods (Neue Untersuchungs - und Behandlungsmethoden, NUB) more transparent and less bureaucratic.

At the end of January 2009 the German Institute for Hospital Reimbursement (InEK, Institut für das Entgeltsystem im Krankenhaus) will publish its assessment of the reimbursement of NUB applications made in 2008.

Previously, applications had to be made individually by those hospitals that wanted to offer innovative therapies to their patients and before patients could benefit from an InEK approval of new types of therapy they had to wait for up to a year. This was due to the fact that hospitals could only submit the application for reimbursement of the NUB with the healthcare funds once a year at the end of their budget negotiations. And these usually take place during the year, BVMed explained.

Experts regarded this regulation as a significant obstacle for innovation and a healthcare gap. "This procedure has led to a slowing-down of the speed of innovation in Germany, and in addition, systematic injustice in patient care results. This is due to the fact that innovations were available only for those patients who were lucky to be treated not at the beginning of the year but in autumn after the budgets had been authorised," said BVMed. The lawmakers also noticed this deplorable state of affairs.

The application procedure for the financing of innovations in the hospital sector will therefore be made more flexible. Remunerations can be agreed on earlier and independently of the agreement of the revenue budget, the proposal for amendment states.

BVMed concludes: "Hospitals will now be able to settle new methods and innovative medical technologies independently of their yearly budget negotiations and in this way can use these methods and offer them to the patient immediately."

Bookmark this page

To top