Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Das DDR-Regierungskrakenhaus: East Germany's Hospital for the Elite

An Apartment
at the Regierungskrankenhaus
Equal access to health care is not a new topic or even something unique to the USA. It was one of the reasons behind the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare). Ever since Germany enacted national health insurance in 1883, access to health care has been a controversial topic. Today, most western countries have some form of national health insurance. Yet, even in these countries, there exists a two-tiered system of health care: one for the rich and one for the rest.

Even in the former communist countries, the ruling class had its own form of health care. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I saw a local news program about East Germany's Government Hospital (Regierungskrankenhaus). Located in East Berlin, the hospital resembled a luxury hotel, and catered exclusively to East Germany's elite. 

For its time, the hospital was an ultra-modern facility that had state of the art equipment, highly specialized doctors (paid in West German Marks), and medications available only in the west. If a drug was unavailable at the hospital, a Stasi officer was sent to West Berlin to procure it. The hospital had luxury apartments, televisions in every room, and even bowls of tropical fruit for patients and guests (unavailable to most East Germans). Erich Honecker, East Germany's Communist Head of State, stayed there for a brief time in palatial splendor. 

Today, this hospital stands empty, a stark reminder of the inequalities that existed in a so-called "Egalitarian State." As health care costs continue to rise and the ability of the average American to afford basic health care (even with insurance) becomes less attainable, I wonder if our two-tiered system of health care will continue to widen and become more like that of the former East Germany. 

No comments: