The Federal Ministry of Health wants to abolish a new patient bonus that has been in force since 2019. That would have a massive impact on waiting times at the doctor’s – especially for new patients. FOCUS online says what people with statutory health insurance need to know.

In order to stabilize the multi-billion dollar deficit of the health insurance companies, Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach plans, among other things, to abolish the so-called new patient regulation.

Since 2019, the regulation has offered doctors financial incentives to admit new patients to their practice and offer additional consultation hours. Corresponding treatments were not billed via the capped pot in the new patient regulation, but via an extra budget.

A deletion of the regulation initially means financial losses for the medical practices.

Burkhard Ruppert, chairwoman of the Berlin Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, explained that the deletion was met with absolute incomprehension by the general practitioners. It is questionable that the federal government wants to save on the practices, of all things.

In a fire letter to the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians warns that the previous level of care cannot be maintained.

Practices have been overworked by the corona crisis, there is a lack of staff, especially in specialist practices, and the rising energy and material costs would aggravate the situation even further.

The omission would obviously have severe effects on new patients. Statutory health insurance members who need treatment would be particularly affected.

On average, you would miss about five additional consultation hours per week, which today apply to new patients due to the measure from the practices. Conversely, patients would have to expect longer waiting times at specialist practices.

But family doctor practices could also reject new patients from next year.

As the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians explains, this applies to all people who visit a specific specialist practice or a household practice for the first time. At the same time also for patients who were last treated in these practices more than two years ago.

Due to the abolition of the new patient regulation, those with statutory health insurance should urgently see a family doctor. This is especially true if you do not yet have a family doctor.

If it has been too long since the last treatment at the specialist practice, you should ask for a check-up before the two-year period has expired. This means that you will not be considered a new patient in the coming year. This will make it harder for you to be rejected in the future.

In the coming year, practices could carry out treatments, but in principle reject new patients.

In addition, specialist practices could offer even shorter consultation hours for those with statutory health insurance. This would have an impact on women’s, skin, eye, ENT, dental and other specialist practices.

Anyone looking for an appointment with a cardiologist, neurologist, psychologist or another specialist needs strong nerves in Germany.

FOCUS online advises: Consult the family doctor or general practice that treats you. The appointment at the specialist practice can be brought forward accordingly using the urgency note on the referral slip.

What many of those affected do not know: This urgency notice is often forgotten or ignored by medical practices.

Ideally, you should then contact the patient service with the referral slip and the twelve-digit emergency code on 116 117. You will then receive an appointment within the following four weeks. That is stipulated by law.

It is also helpful to call the specialist doctor.

In many cases, appointments become free spontaneously, and those affected are then “put in between”. Call practices in your place of residence and tell the people on the phone that you live nearby and can stop by spontaneously.

If that doesn’t help either, either the patient service of the statutory health insurance physicians on 116 117 or your health insurance company can help. You can also use online consultation hours, which are offered by many practices. This often results in appointments in the practice.

If you have acute problems, do not hesitate, call the practice and go to them directly.

A common challenge is that it is not always easy to find a general practice. “Many are so busy that they no longer accept new patients,” says Anja Lehmann, legal advisor at the Independent Patient Advice Service Germany (UPD). This is especially so in rural areas.

Recommendations from friends often help with the search, but not always. The Federal Ministry of Health is helping on the Internet via this portal, via commercial providers such as Jameda, Doctolib, Samedi and others. The patient services page also helps.

For those with statutory health insurance, there is the digital appointment service of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV).