Tests are useful and important in the fight against Corona – said Health Minister Lauterbach. Despite this, the tests are no longer free for most people. Now the anger is sometimes great.

Despite criticism from many quarters, the corona tests have not been free for most people in Germany since Thursday. Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) emphasized that the tests are still important – but in the current form too expensive for the state.

Doctors described it as an “imposition” to collect euro amounts for tests. The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians announced in a letter to Lauterbach that “in the future they will no longer be able to bill and pay out citizen tests.” The Greens gave responsibility for the end of the free citizen tests in the previous form to the federal states. This Friday, the corona measures in politics as a whole will come into focus: an eagerly awaited test report will be presented.

Free tests are now only available for risk groups and other exceptional cases. For tests, for example for family celebrations, concerts or meetings with people over 60, an additional payment of three euros is due. Anyone who wants such a test must sign that it is done for this purpose.

Lauterbach defended the innovations. “The tests are valuable, they are important,” he said in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”. However, the costs for taxpayers for the previously free tests are too high. In addition, abuse by test centers must be limited.

Citizen test fraud

Months ago, investigators were quoted in the media assuming high damage from fraud with citizen tests. There was talk of over a billion euros or around a tenth of the total payments to operators. The bottom line is that criminals are said to have billed large sums to the responsible association of statutory health insurance physicians for citizen tests without even operating test centers – in some cases they are said to have billed many more tests.

The test regulation has already been adjusted several times, for example through stricter specifications as to which information is plausible and to random tests. According to an rbb report, the lack of controls makes it easier to bill tests incorrectly.

Lauterbach admitted: “There is always the possibility of fraud.” Now the test centers would have to document why a test was carried out. The minister emphasized that it would then be possible to use random samples to check this and thus prevent abuse.

criticism of doctors

“If such a complex new regulation is decided and announced one day before it takes effect, then chaos is foreseeable for everyone involved,” said the Hartmannbund medical association on Thursday. As a “bureaucratic monster”, the chairman of the general practitioners’ association, Ulrich Weigeldt, had already criticized the plans a few days ago: “The general practitioners are not the debt collectors of an overburdened state.”

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians even called for the citizen tests to be stopped. In a letter to the minister, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians justified the fact that they were no longer able to bill and pay out citizen tests, with the fact that they were no longer able to check eligibility requirements. “As a result, the Associations of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians cannot be responsible for making payments on bills with their eyes wide open, the accuracy of which they cannot begin to check,” says the letter, which was first reported by the editorial network Germany (RND) and that of the German Press Agency present.

The Federal Ministry of Health explained on request that it is assumed that the associations of statutory health insurance physicians, as public bodies, will continue to fulfill their mandate for billing and random testing of the test centers. “In a dialogue, we will discuss with the KVs at short notice how the new rules can be implemented in an unbureaucratic manner,” said a spokesman.

The “Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung” prepared its industry for the changes: “It is therefore becoming more complicated in the pharmacy. There will be less money for that from July 1st.” Instead of 8 euros for the swab and 3.50 for the material, the federal government will only reimburse 7 or 2.50 euros in future.

Greens and FDP at the end of the free tests

The Greens are not at all happy with the situation. Her MP Paula Piechotta said: “The fact that the test offers now cost three euros for many people is the result of the lack of cooperation between the countries.” Although the federal government had been making advance payments for months and had to go into massive debt again this year, the federal states were not prepared to share the burden fairly. The FDP health expert Andrew Ullmann emphasized on the rbb broadcaster radioeins that the protection of risk groups is still guaranteed.

Lauterbach and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) had agreed last week to significantly limit the “citizen tests”. The parliamentary manager of the left, Jan Korte, now accused the FDP of taking the whole country hostage with the help of the SPD and the Greens: “The end of the free citizen tests in the middle of the Corona summer wave is stupid, negligent and antisocial.”

Expert opinion eagerly awaited

How tests and other corona measures could continue in the fall should also depend on an eagerly awaited report that is to be presented in Berlin this Friday. A council of experts should examine and evaluate the previous protective measures. The FDP in particular had insisted on waiting for the report before the measures for this autumn were negotiated in more detail. Lauterbach dampened expectations. The report is “just another building block” and not a blueprint for the federal government’s measures for the fall. He pointed out that a significant increase in the number of infections is to be expected again.

Lauterbach counted measures for the fall including a vaccination campaign for the various available vaccines and medicines. New vaccines adapted to the omicron variant “could be postponed until later in the fall,” said Lauterbach. The statistical recording of corona patients in hospitals should also be improved. The Corona provisions in the Infection Protection Act that are still valid – such as the obligation to wear masks on buses and trains – expire on September 23.