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AOK Nordost: New large health insurance company from 2011.
(08/28/2010) The wave of mergers among statutory health insurers continues. The boards of directors of AOK Berlin-Brandenburg and AOK Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have decided that the two health insurance companies will merge under the new name AOK Nordost on 01.01.2010.
With the merger, the two AOKs want to join forces to increase their competitiveness and to cope with the ever increasing competitive pressure in the field of health insurance. With almost 1.8 million members (1.3 million AOK Berlin-Brandenburg; 475,000 AOK Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), AOK Nordost will be the ninth largest statutory health insurance company in Germany in the future. The new AOK is expected to become the headquarters of Potsdam. However, the merger is still subject to regulatory approval from the countries concerned.
The changes in the health system introduced so far by the black and yellow government coalition have significantly increased the competitive pressure among health insurance companies. In particular, the collection of additional contributions has resulted in massive membership losses for some health insurance companies. The designated chief executive officer of the new AOK Nordost, Frank Michalak, hopes “through in-house synergies, a better negotiating position vis-à-vis contractual partners and further membership growth (…), no additional contribution will be made in 2011 either.” From the perspective of Friedrich Wilhelm Bluschke, the chairman of the AOK Mecklenburg Vorpommern, the requirements of the competition are decisive for the merger. In addition, the merger is also an important signal for a secure future for employees, because "with the merger there will be job security for the new AOK Northeast," said Bluschke. Both CEOs emphasize that the network of branches and service points with the existing 112 locations in the region will be preserved.
However, according to the future CEO of AOK Nordost, Frank Michalak, the promise of no additional contributions in 2011 can only be kept if, from the direction of politics, the previous commitments to reduce costs are implemented at all levels of the health system. In addition to the contributors and health insurers, the other providers of healthcare services must also make their contribution to financing in order to compensate for the steadily rising costs due to demographic change, Michalak explained.
The wave of mergers among health insurers already expected by all experts based on the health care reform of 2007 continues accordingly. The number of statutory insurances has since dropped from over 230 to currently 163. The AOK Berlin-Brandenburg, which is now merging into the new AOK Nordost, also only emerged at the beginning of the current year as a result of the merger of the general local health insurance companies in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Industry experts, however, are assessing the current wave of mergers with growing concern and the first voices are already warning of a possible collapse of the health system. While it was previously always possible for health insurers to register possible bankruptcy with the Federal Insurance Office if there was insufficient funding, some health insurers have already reached a size in the course of the mergers that precludes such a procedure (similar to the banking crisis). Some experts, such as Rolf Stuppardt from the Federal Association of Guilds' Funds, even assume that the current mergers generally have "little to do with health economic goals", but essentially serve to achieve a system-relevant size, in the event of a possible bankruptcy from the state to be saved. (fp)
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