How health official Hedges felt the Chancellor’s power

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How health official Hedges felt the Chancellor's power





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Anger from all sides.


The G-BA chairman gets caught between the fronts of Angela Merkel and Minister of Health Spahn in the dispute over telephone sick leave.

Not a good habit: Before Josef Hecken gives lectures and leads meetings, he likes to go out for a glow stick again. Hecken is, of all people, the chairman of the highest body of self-government in the health system, the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA).

There, doctors and health insurers negotiate rules and remuneration for medical treatments. It has a crucial role: both parties have the same number of votes; Hinden’s voice, as an impartial chairman, is often crucial.

Current example: Last Friday, the G-BA decided that doctors should no longer be able to diagnose their patients with mild respiratory complaints on the phone using a diagnosis, but that the sick should go back to the practice.

The box office representatives voted against an extension of the derogation that had been introduced due to the corona virus – as did hedges, whose vote was decisive. A far reaching decision in corona times.

At the weekend there was hail from all sides about Hcken’s decision: from the medical representatives, opposition politicians and the SPD. The argument: The doctors would be disproportionately endangered. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is said to have intervened on Monday, political circles report to the Handelsblatt.

Jens Spahn’s will counts

This had an effect: The withdrawal immediately followed on Monday afternoon. The G-BA would deal with the sick leave over the same day again, Hecken said. “With a high probability” the exemption will now be extended until May 4th.

It is not entirely true that it was Hedges that got the chancellor’s ruffle. Because he also makes it clear that the stop of the telephone diagnosis on Friday was taken “in knowledge” with the Federal Ministry of Health.

According to Handelsblatt information from coalition circles, this is nothing more than a description for “Spahn had wished it so” – Health Minister Jens Spahn from the CDU. Hecken wanted to do justice to his diplomatic role in the G-BA, it is said. He himself does not think the immediate stop is wrong, but is said to have proposed a transition period from the exemption as a compromise.

But “Jensi” or “de Prinz”, as Rheinlander Hecken likes to call the Minister of Health, is said to have pushed for the immediate stopping of the exemption as one of the first steps in the exit plan. The G-BA is independent in its decisions, Spahn emphasized this again on Monday afternoon with a view to the telephone debate.

Clumsy committee

But the legislative competence lies with the minister, who is using the longer lever and can drive hedges to where he would like them to be. While Hedges and Spahn still had a good relationship before his time in the federal cabinet, the minister is now increasingly cutting back on Hecken’s area of ​​responsibility.

The G-BA has a reputation for clumsiness because so many different interests come together. That doesn’t fit Spahn’s political style. Hedging worms the dwindling power, he makes no secret of it, as he does with most things.

The 60-year-old is a real child in the Rhineland. Someone who says what he thinks, including emotional outbursts. When he talks about the attacks of his opponents, he does not say “critics say about me”, but “hedges, the sow” did this and that again. But that’s exactly what many appreciate about him.

“Hedges is not a dusty civil servant, but someone with whom you can discuss openly,” says a coalition politician. This also applies to the collaboration with Spahn, despite all the friction. Hecken is a qualified lawyer. He has been involved in federal politics since 1991, before being appointed G-BA chief in 2012, he was State Secretary in the Ministry of Family Affairs.

His current role is more important than ever in corona times. In recent weeks, the G-BA has decided on a number of facilities for hospitals and medical practices, reducing documentation requirements and lower personnel levels.

But Hecken always emphasizes that the corona worries should not lead to a “cold triage”: It is extremely dangerous if other life-threatening sufferers are overlooked by Covid-19. Therefore, telephone diagnoses are only an exception. So far, hedges and spahn are agreed again.

More: After weeks of standstill, public life in Germany is slowly starting up again this Monday: Above all, many shops are allowed to reopen.

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