Success in state elections has given German Chancellor Angela Merkel a shot in the arm but her grand coalition now faces its toughest test yet. Merkel’s right-left alliance must overcome its differences to cure the ailing health service – a problem everyone agrees needs solving. Voters re-elected two Christian Democrat state premiers and one Social Democrat leader – Kurt Beck of Rhineland-Pfaltz – at the weekend.
He said that he thought the results would have a stabilising impact and that the self-confidence of Social Democrats throughout Germany would be strengthened. “This is good because it strengthens our position within the grand coalition,” he added. At the moment, Germany’s comprehensive healthcare system is paid for mainly by levies on salaries divided between workers and their employers.
But rising costs and mass unemployment are making this less viable. Merkel wants to see a flat monthly premium paid by nearly all Germans, regardless of what they earn. The SPD wants to bring in currently exempt groups, such as the self-employed and civil servants, and take contributions from investment income as well as pay.