So far, the state and health insurance companies have paid more than six billion euros for PCR tests. According to reports, the sum could have been significantly lower if reasonable pricing had taken place. Instead, the prices of the doctors’ lobby were probably accepted.
As research by WDR, NDR and SZ shows, the state and health insurance companies could have saved billions on PCR tests. Accordingly, the price calculations were extremely questionable. The doctors’ lobby ultimately pushed through the horrendous prices. The Ministry of Health around former Minister Jens Spahn did not determine the actual market prices. This should emerge from the inspection of more than 1000 pages of internal files from the Ministry of Health and Economics. In addition, discussions with insiders should confirm this.
A cost calculation can also not be found in the ministry documents. Experts are said not to have been commissioned either. The ministry does not answer such inquiries, as reported by the “tagesschau”.
On request, the then Minister Spahn announced that the fast and reliable availability of PCR tests was “a key means of combating the pandemic, especially in the difficult first year”. Like few other countries in the world, Germany has managed to multiply the PCR test capacities within a few months. Even in times of a very high number of tests, the waiting times for a test result were reasonably short. In addition, Spahn explained that he could not answer specific questions due to the lack of access to the files.
The price was the result of the “relevant cost factors”, Spahn is quoted as saying. Personnel costs, material costs and calculations by the responsible evaluation committee were decisive, among other things.
As can be seen from insider reports, the Ministry of Health is said to have even put pressure on them to accept the high price of 59 euros and to agree that patients with corona symptoms would not have to pay for the tests themselves in the end.
The price of 59 euros is said to have been proposed by representatives of the medical profession, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), in an email to the health insurance companies on the evening of January 30, 2020. A comparatively rare hepatitis test – and not a PCR test for influenza or RS viruses – was apparently used as a reference value. The latter are remunerated with 19.90 euros.
TIB Molbiol was the first company in Germany to manufacture COVID-19 tests and sell them to laboratories. Its founder, Olfert Landt, explains the costs in the report. According to this, the cost of all the necessary ingredients for a PCR test, including the reagents, extraction control and polymerase, is around four euros. If you also add the purification of the samples that some laboratories have carried out, the total should increase to a maximum of nine euros per test. Other companies have therefore offered similarly inexpensive test kits, writes the “tagesschau”.
As a result of price usury, the health insurance companies are said to have pushed for a price reduction from May 2020. They probably demanded compensation of 23 euros. However, the doctors’ side still charged 59 euros. The negotiations are said to have taken place in the so-called evaluation committee. A committee made up of doctors and health insurance representatives, which meets within the framework of self-government in the healthcare system.
There, the doctors are said to have submitted a cost calculation, according to which the material costs for such a test are 22.02 euros high. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) is said not to have provided receipts and documents. Instead, they are said to have justified the high price level with “significant market bottlenecks in reagents and materials”. However, the health insurance companies doubted this.
In the dispute over this, the chairman of the Extended Evaluation Committee, Jürgen Wasem, finally decided that the health insurance companies would have to pay 39.40 euros for the PCR test from July 2020. The Ministry of Health still paid 50.50 euros per test to the laboratories until March 2021. In 2022, the health insurance companies repaid 35 euros per test, while the ministry paid 43.56 euros.
For your information: the health insurance companies only had to bear the costs for a PCR test if the tests were carried out in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Tests of contact persons or people with a red warning in the Corona app were taken over by the federal government.
Confronted with the research by WDR, NDR and SZ, Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach admits: “The test costs seemed too high to me. I then lowered them by more than half. Nevertheless, the providers make do with the money. Therefore, the cost cannot be higher than what is being paid now.”