[Series] Statutory health insurance in Germany: a health system shaped by 135 years of solidarity, self-governance, and competition
Bismarck’s Health Insurance Act of 1883 established the first social health insurance system in the world. The German statutory health insurance system was built on the defining principles of solidarity and self-governance, and these principles have remained at the core of its continuous development for 135 years. A gradual expansion of population and benefits coverage has led to what is, in 2017, universal health coverage with a generous benefits package. Self-governance was initially applied mainly to the payers (the sickness funds) but was extended in 1913 to cover relations between sickness funds and doctors, which in turn led to the right for insured individuals to freely choose their health-care providers.