The Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians refuse to bill the citizen tests because they cannot check their accuracy. That’s cheap. But Karl Lauterbach is also to blame for the test chaos.

What a mess: The new Corona test regulation has been in force for a day and hardly anyone knows whether and how much they have to pay for a smear. Worse still: After the panel doctors announced on Thursday that they would refuse to bill for the tests, it is not even clear whether the citizen tests can continue at all.

This is a disgrace for everyone involved. For Karl Lauterbach, who negotiated for a long time with Finance Minister Lindner, only to present an immature compromise (much too late). But also for the panel doctors who failed to control the test centers properly and who now see an opportunity not to have to continue to be the bogeyman.

More was not possible again

He did not want to hide the fact that he would have liked to have continued the free citizen tests for everyone, the Minister of Health said at the presentation of the new test regulation on Tuesday. But Lindner didn’t want to give him any more money.

As a loyal visitor to Lauterbach press conferences, you are now used to these words. Lauterbach can only announce what he just saved across the finish line. In the case of the tests, this means free swabs for vulnerable groups, pregnant women and people who cannot be vaccinated. And three-euro tests for everyone else. At least that’s how it was received by the general public. In fact, the three-euro test only applies to people who attend indoor events, who meet people over 60, or whose Corona warning app lights up red. Everyone else pays full price.

The confusion in the public and in some media probably stems from the fact that the minister said at the beginning of the press conference that citizens “normally have to contribute three euros”. The later specification was lost.

Not a master of political negotiation

One thing is certain: it is now much more complicated than before. Lauterbach was once again unable to assert himself. He agreed to a compromise that confuses rather than reassures the populace. It was the same with the new version of the Infection Protection Act in March. Not even experts understand the hotspot regulation contained therein. Of course, the FDP Ministers Lindner (finance) and Buschmann (justice) are also responsible for this.

However, the criticism is reliably drawn by the Minister of Health. Because he rarely defines red lines before negotiations. Because he only then explains meekly what he actually wanted. The master of scientific explanation is not an expert in political negotiation.

That is why the new rules are now also presenting test centers with greater challenges. You now need to double-check that test takers meet the eligibility requirements for free or discounted testing.

The announcement comes much too late

It would have been all the more important that Lauterbach didn’t just announce the new rules two days before they came into force. That might have saved him the confrontation with the panel doctors. They were previously responsible for reimbursement for citizen tests, but no longer want to take on this task. You are unable to verify the correctness of the statements. Previously, they only had to understand whether there was a test at all (which they could hardly do), now they also have to see whether the people were entitled to it (which they are even less able to do).

This is, without question, a bureaucratic effort. The lawsuit is still cheap. The Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians have benefited greatly from the citizen tests through administrative commissions. In many places you have not checked the statements for a long time, or at least only insufficiently. Recently it became known that the panel doctors have paid out millions to fraudsters. Now it seems as if you no longer want to be the bogeyman.

Lauterbach now has to quickly negotiate a way out with the associations of statutory health insurance physicians. Maybe this time the minister will explain beforehand what he actually wants instead of afterwards.