Cancer still results in death far too often. Cancer also leads too often to a permanent reduction in earning capacity. In 2018, the second most frequent reason for granting a reduced earning capacity pension was a new case of cancer, accounting for 13.5% of women and 13.2% of men.
Oncological rehabilitation tries to strengthen patients’ stability, support their recovery, restore their independence and increase their quality of life by means of a holistic approach. Psychological help and psychosocial aspects play an important role.
Compared to other European countries, it is somewhat of an exception that rehabilitation services for workers in Germany are provided by the German pension funds. These are also responsible for the oncological rehabilitation of pensioners who would otherwise be covered by health insurance.
Following an accident at work, an occupational disease or even an anticipated occupational disease, the German social accident insurance system safeguards existing employment relationships using all appropriate means. It provides all medical services for rehabilitation, including psychological support and services for re-entering working life and community life.
But rehabilitation also needs proper coordination. The Federal Working Group for Rehabilitation was established so that social insurance institutions and social welfare agencies can work together with the federal states, social partners and medical professionals. Workplace Integration Management (WIM) bridges the gap between prevention and rehabilitation and helps people who have been ill or disabled for a long period of time to adjust and carefully guide them back into their everyday working lives.
Rehabilitation services are already responding to calls from policymakers to take the emotional and psychosocial aspects of the disease into account and to see patients as people and not just as treatment cases.
Helping people to help themselves
During rehabilitation or afterwards, for patients and relatives alike, there is no substitute for sharing experiences and information with others who are affected by cancer; whether it be treatment, their fears and pain or even the difficulties that often arise after treatment in the form of discrimination at work, when applying for loans or taking out insurance.
Accordingly, the German health insurance funds and their associations promote health-related self-help organisations. In 2018, 24 organisations dealing with cancer received funding of over one million euros at federal level alone. The total figure is even larger when taking into consideration the funding provided to state self-help associations and the many hundreds of local self-help groups. Further financial support is provided by the pension insurance system. In comparison with other countries, the funding provided by the social insurance institutions to self-help groups in Germany is unique.
Today, self-help and patient organisations voice their concerns on an equal footing. Dialogue is effective and helps to ensure that people are not forgotten in professional dealings.
Health Commissioner Kyriakides agrees wholeheartedly: The tumour should not be the focus of attention. The focus must be on the individual. With this in mind, we wish Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan every success.