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The Kur and German Health Benefits

Posted 11/30/2016

Posted in

  I really did think about how to title this entry, and I acknowledge that my choice is not very good. I am so smitten with the concept and jealous of the German health benefits and disbelieving that there is such generosity that I think there isn't much left to think about titles. This is actually an introduction to an essay from The New York Times about a hike in the Canary Islands--and their title, although way better than mine, does not reflect the stunning part of the content.

  To alleviate the suspense right now, it appears that the German health system is known for its very generous benefits and recognizes the need for emotional recovery and rest after a serious illness. Not only is a woman automatically offered six weeks off to recover from a lumpectomy and radiation, but is then offered another seven weeks to heal. There will now be a moment of stunned silence among all my readers.

  As we Americans are often told that we have the best health care system in the world, this is clearly more evidence that is just not true. Most of us are aware that the medical care itself is just as good in Western Europe, Japan, Australia, etc. but who knew that the additional benefits even existed?! I have a patient who is German and she once told me that her sister, after breast cancer, spent several weeks at a spa courtesy of the government. I didn't think that she was lying to me, but I just couldn't quite believe the story. Apparently, I should have.

  Here is the relevant excerpt from the larger essay and then a link to read it all (as in read it and weep):

As an American who has lived and worked in Germany since 2000, I’ve grown somewhat
familiar with the ample health care benefits there. But seven weeks off — in addition to the six
that had been offered following the lumpectomy to remove the tumor — sounded overly
generous to me. I didn’t take the doctor up on his offer. I had recovered quickly from surgery,
was back at work a day afterward, and while I had some mild swelling and redness from the
radiation, I had none of the dreaded fatigue the doctors kept warning me about.
After radiation, however, my radiologist suggested an extended (up to six weeks) recovery
retreat, or Kur, as the Germans call it. Alternately translated into “cure” or “regimen,” a Kur
may be spent in the Alps or at the Baltic Sea, and is paid for by both public and private insurers.
A staple of German health care, the Kur dates from the reign of Otto von Bismark, who
established it as part of his extensive social welfare reforms in the 1880s. Germans —
employers and employees alike — remain proud of the tradition, recognizing it as essential to
one’s recovery from serious illness.


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