What a celebration! Around 200 guests from the fields of national and European politics, healthcare, social services and self-governing bodies accepted the invitation to join the umbrella associations of the German social insurance system for a celebratory event in Brussels on March 7th 2018.
Specialist conference: Digital Change and Social Security
The anniversary event began with a specialist conference on the topic of “Bismarck meets Bytes: Digital Change and Social Security” at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union.
The Bavarian State Minister of Labour, Social and Family Affairs and Integration, Emilia Müller, used her welcome address to praise the tremendous achievements of social insurance in Germany. She underlined that digitalisation is one of the greatest challenges now faced, stressing that it is up to politicians, employers, employees and social insurance organisations to “grasp the opportunities of digitalisation without losing sight of the risks attached.”
The Director of the European Representation of the German Social Insurance, Ilka Wölfle, took the opportunity to look back on the work of the liaison office over the last 25 years using the example of various European initiatives, acts and projects. She then shifted her focus to current challenges, and in particular the issues of social security for all employees and digitalisation in the healthcare sector as examples of the change processes initiated by digitalisation.
Social security for all forms of work
The first part of the specialist conference focused on the adaptation of social security systems to new forms of work. It was opened by the Director of Social Affairs at the European Commission, Manuela Geleng, whose keynote speech on “Access to Social Security for all Employees and Freelancers” ranged from the member countries’ responsibility to make their social security systems fit for the future to potential supportive measures at a European level.
The panel discussion that followed saw Emilia Müller, Gundula Roßbach (President of the German Federal Pension Insurance), Dr Sangheon Lee (Director of the Employment Policy Department of the International Labour Organisation) and Dr Joachim Breuer (President of the International Social Security Association), discuss how to ensure that all employees benefit from an adequate level of social security. This included analysis of the challenges to effective prevention posed by digitalisation and changes in the world of work.
Prioritisation of digitalisation in the healthcare sector
The second part of the specialist conference dealt with digitalisation processes in the healthcare sector and was introduced by the Bavarian State Minister for Health and Care, Melanie Huml. Emphasising the need to “push forward with the digitalisation of healthcare throughout Europe”, she used the cross-border electronic exchange of patient data as an example of the benefits digitalisation can bring to patients who receive treatment abroad.
The keynote speech made by the Director for Health Systems, Medical Products and Innovation at the European Commission, Andrzej Rys, provided an overview of the Commission’s activities in this area. He stressed that the digitalisation of the healthcare sector is one of the European Commission’s top priorities.“Many member states are telling us that they have already made progress in the introduction of interoperable digital healthcare systems. They nevertheless report that there are still a number of legal, organisational and technical problems that impede the effective cross-border exchange of health-related data”, asked Rys for it.
Melanie Huml, Dr Doris Pfeiffer (Chair of the Board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds), Karin Kadenbach (Member of the European Parliament) and Dr Michael Meyer (Head of Strategy and Government Affairs, Siemens Healthcare) used the panel discussion that followed to debate not only the opportunities and added value digitalisation offers from the perspective of European healthcare provision, but also how the insured and patients stand to benefit.
Ilka Wölfle concluded the specialist conference by underlining the importance of ensuring an appropriate and effective response to negative trends caused by the digitalisation of the world of work, for example the emergence of gaps in social security provision. In her view, this is the responsibility of member countries in particular. She also stressed the necessity of harnessing the positive effects of digitalisation – for example those already being witnessed in areas such as healthcare provision, communication with the insured and administration – for use in the field of social protection.
Evening reception at Bibliothèque Solvay
After the specialist conference, participants were invited to attend a celebratory evening reception at Bibliothèque Solvay. Dr Pfeiffer, Chair of the Board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds, welcomed guests including members of the European Parliament, representatives of the European Commission and national governments as well as colleagues from other German and European lobbying groups.
The guest speakers were Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget & Human Resources at the European Commission, and Ambassador Dr Peter Rösgen of the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU.
Commissioner Oettinger used his speech to pay tribute to the work of the European Representation of the German Social Insurance. He also made particular reference to the changes that accompany globalisation, automation and digitalisation: “These changes need to be properly managed, as all employees must be able to see a future in their world of work. The German Social Insurance has a key role to play in the extent to which such changes are accepted.”
Dr Rösgen joined Commissioner Oettinger in praising the work of the European Representation as a liaison office between German social insurance organisations and the European political environment. In particular, he described it as both far-sighted and brave to have recognised the relevance of European politics to the German social insurance system and taken the decision to establish the European Representation 25 years ago.
Please click here for the programme and photos of the event.