Lauterbach plan for homeopathy: black-green front for dots

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Written By Maya Cantina

Can health insurers continue to pay for homeopathy? In the petitions committee of the Bundestag, the CDU and the Greens agree: the traffic lights are missing again.

Globules and a barrel.

Despite proven ineffectiveness: bubbles lead to new political alliances in the Bundestag Photo: Rupert Oberhäuser/imago

BERLIN taz | Doctor Stefan Schmidt-Troschke operated with the large cutlery in the Bundestag on Monday. The fact that the Minister of Health wants to ban health insurers from paying for homeopathic medicines is “ideologically designed health policy”. Tens of thousands of people felt “benefited by such measures”. For the anthroposophical physician and his colleagues, the procedure is ‘a kind of arbitrariness’.

The Berlin pediatrician can address the members of the petitions committee on Monday against the injustice he feels. The petition he started after Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) revealed his plan at the beginning of this year has almost 200,000 signatures. Homeopathic remedies are not part of the standard reimbursements that health insurers have to pay anyway. However, they can be offered as a voluntary additional service, which is what approximately 70 health insurers do. Lauterbach wanted to put an end to that.

The accompanying law was adopted by the cabinet in May without the accompanying clause. The Bundestag, which must make a final decision, could reintroduce it – and some traffic light MPs are making corresponding efforts. “We do not consider the problem area as resolved,” says petitioner Schmidt-Troschke.

He and his practice colleague Anne Steinmüller advocate, among other things, the great demand for homeopathy among the population – according to a study by Allensbach last year 60 percent of Germans have experience with the means. They point to the relatively low costs: health insurers spend a total of 300 billion euros per year, and according to Lauterbach only 20 to 50 million euros are spent on homeopathy. And they emphasize the effectiveness of pellets and the like – although there is no evidence for this in scientific studies.

But more interesting than these well-known arguments are the questions that MPs ask in the Bundestag. Because they provide information about how the factions could position themselves in the further legislative process.

Cracks in the traffic lights

In recent weeks it had become clear that Lauterbach was not the only one in the SPD who had problems with taking over the costs. The Health Minister’s original plans were “very understandable from a scientific point of view,” MP Annika Klose said on Monday. When making homeopathic medicines, the active ingredients would be diluted until almost nothing is left. “Do all your patients know how the products are manufactured? Should there be a requirement for how people are informed about this?” she asks the petitioner.

However, this critical view is not a consensus within the traffic light coalition. Green MP Corinna Rüffer wants health insurers to also pay for other additional services whose effectiveness has not been proven – but Lauterbach has no problem with that. “Are you also planning exclusions in other places, or only in the field of homeopathy and anthroposophical medicine?” she asks State Secretary Edgar Franke, also SPD, who represents the Ministry of Health on the committee.

He maneuvers during the hour and a half meeting: on the one hand, he repeats his minister’s argument that reimbursement of costs makes patients believe that it is effective and that has not been proven. On the other hand, he points out that the clause no longer appears in the bill and that it is now Parliament’s turn. And finally, he refers to the experiences his wife once had with their children: “When the children were small, many homeopathic medicines helped them explicitly.”

Green MP Rüffer elaborates on this again: Does this mean that the issue is finally off the table for the Ministry of Health? But that is not how the State Secretary wants to be understood.

It must be said: the fact that Lauterbach was unable to stand up for himself in the cabinet was thanks to the Greens. Before her reign They had internally criticized their position on the subject. Now the homeopathic opponents in the party do not want to risk renewed polarization – times are heated enough as it is. On the other hand, the regional association from the anthroposophical stronghold of Baden-Württemberg in particular took action against Lauterbach’s plans. For the time being, this wing has prevailed.

The CDU expressly thanks you

The Greens are not the only friends of homeopathy in the Bundestag at the moment. The CDU positions itself even more clearly in the Committee on Petitions. MP Simone Borchardt tells the petitioner: “I thank you very expressly, I really do, for this petition.” And her party colleague Andreas Mattfeldt fears economic damage for Weleda and other manufacturers in the event of a delisting: “Do you expect bankruptcies among manufacturers? he asks the ministry.

Meanwhile, MPs Sören Pellmann (Left Party) and Christian Bartelt (FDP), who is present from his own practice in a dentist’s coat, do not express a very clear position. The Sahra Wagenknecht alliance is not represented at the meeting – and the AfD is using the date again to work on the corona pandemic: there can be no argument that no homeopathic remedy meets the requirements to be officially approved as a medicine. the assumption of the costs, says MP Gereon Bollmann. This was not crucial with the Covid vaccines, he claims: “None of them were ultimately approved!”

The committee did not issue any advice on Monday on how to handle the petition. In any case, the Health Committee will take the lead in the discussion about the future of health insurance. It is not yet known when the Bundestag will finally debate and vote.

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