Germany’s Council Presidency 2020 - Assessment from the view of the German National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV-Spitzenverband).

IF – 12/2020

Germany took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Croatia on the 1st July 2020 along with the major challenges that the EU faced this year. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, social and healthcare policy issues have become increasingly important across Europe.

Under the motto "Together - Making Europe strong again", Germany has - during its Council Presidency - set itself the goal of strengthening social cohesion and working to ensure that Europe emerges stronger from the crisis. The Council Presidency will be transferred to Portugal on the 1st January 2021.

What is the result a few days after the last European Council under Germany’s Presidency? The European representative from the German Social Insurance spoke about this with Dr Doris Pfeiffer, chairperson of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds.

What were your political expectations for Germany’s Council Presidency? To what extent have these been fulfilled in your view?

 Early on, we campaigned with the BMG to initiate pan-European use of health data within the framework of the Council Presidency. There is great potential there, if you think of the many common challenges faced by the different health systems within the EU: For example, the major widespread diseases, healthcare in rural areas or even financial sustainability. I strongly believe that we as German National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds have a lot to offer in this sector and that the insured can benefit greatly from closer cooperation and joint research efforts in the EU.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed these and other priorities down the list. Nevertheless, the first steps towards a European health data governance have been taken. We now have to ensure that we continue with a clear focus on the benefits for the insured.

In your opinion, which topics have been neglected and should have been promoted more strongly?

Germany’s Council Presidency, the EU Commission and the Parliament have made pandemic management their top priority and they have made a lot of progress. The extensive reconstruction programme, the many guidelines, legislation for faster vaccine development and more recently, the proposals for better crisis prevention and for strengthening the European Medicines Agency. This is an impressive interim result as such.

It is clear that priorities will shift in such an exceptional situation as the present one. That is also rightly so. However, it is also clear that we must not lose sight of the other challenges. The fight against cancer, for example. The European plan to combat cancer will now come in during 2021 and it remains an important undertaking.

What do you expect from Portugal’s Council Presidency? Are there any topics that you think should be given special attention?

I hope that the Portuguese will reach a compromise in the Council about the regulation covering HTA collaboration. The evaluation of medicinal products and medical devices is important for the high-quality and economical care of the insured. I expect that the quality of the joint evaluations will have to meet the highest demands.

In addition, a number of initiatives on supply reliability, availability and affordability have been announced as part of the EU’s pharmaceutical strategy. We will be following them very closely. We have already talked about the European health data governance. Portugal’s Council Presidency should continue to move ahead with this and ensure that healthcare and the insured are the prime benefactors.