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Health reforms may prompt PKV to action; Schulte


BERLIN—Reinhold Schulte, head of the German health insurance association PKV, has warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel that if she forces through her much-criticized health insurance plan, the group may take legal action.

Mr. Schulte, chief executive officer of Hamburg, Germany-based Signal Iduna A.G., said at a press conference in Berlin that the 8.4 million Germans who use private health insurance face "dramatic increases" in premiums if the chancellor refuses to back down over her reform plans.

Mr. Schulte also said that plans to set up a new health fund for all citizens by 2008 and allow the transfer of old age provisions to the fund are unconstitutional, and it will act to protect the rights of its insurance company members and their customers.

"We will defend ourselves with all legal and political means. In our opinion, the plans are facing insurmountable constitutional hurdles," said Mr. Schulte.

"Should the government go ahead and pass a reform that ignores constitutional limits, it must brace itself for a tidal wave of legal complaints by individuals and companies.

The PKV will help its members to enforce their claims, if necessary, before Germany's highest court," he continued.

Ms. Merkel, who leads a coalition government, has been fighting hard to save her health reform plans against much opposition and many in German political circles believe her government could fall on this issue.

Agreement on the new plan was reached on July 3, with the aim of delivering draft legislation by October 4. But since then, the coalition parties have accused each other of reneging on the principles of the deal.

Last Friday, a crisis meeting of experts was called to help reach agreement, but it failed. A panel of experts was meeting Friday in Berlin to, once again, try and bring the parties together on this reform package.