New start of TK after World War II (2/4)
In 1953, the first representatives’ meeting after World War II was held in Hamburg. Since then, voluntary involvement has ensured close representation of the needs and interests of the insurees.
It was not until 17 April 1953 that the almost twenty-year mandatory break in self-governance at TK came to an end. The first representatives’ meeting after World War II was held in Hamburg. In 1963, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the resumption of self-governance, Heinz von der Lieth, Chairman of the representatives’ meeting, wrote the following in the health insurance fund’s newsletter: "After almost 20 years of paternalism, the insurees once again had the opportunity to operate according to democratic principles".
Focus on the insurees’ interests
Since the resumption of self-governance, TK has been closely representing the needs and interests of the insurees, even at the highest political level. Various TK pilot projects – such as the recently offered excess plan or acupuncture – are the result of the work done by the TK volunteer committees, which were merged into the Supervisory Board in 1996.
But the self-governance body was not that far yet back in 1953: its first task at that time was to revise the insurance conditions. In addition, a new set of statutes had to be drawn up in order to differentiate the duties of the managing board, the representatives’ meeting and the executive management. The representatives’ meeting was held at least twice a year. It resolved upon the insurance conditions, adopted the proposed annual budget and approved the annual accounts. After 1953, the members of the representatives’ meeting were elected in the election for the administrative boards of social security institutions held every four years. Today, the election for the administrative boards of social security institutions are held every six years; the representatives’ meeting and the managing board have merged together to form the Supervisory Board. However, the importance of self-governance has not changed. The function of the Supervisory Board is similar to the board of directors in a public limited company. It resolves on and adopts amendments to the statutes regarding health and long-term care insurance and the budget. Therefore today, as it was back then, TK is still a health insurance fund in which the members establish their own "corporate supervision".
At TK, the family has always been considered to be an important social unit whose members – both old and young – needed to be protected from the effects of illness. For this reason, TK has insured family members from the very start.
In 1958, TK decided to offer an innovative benefit that was far ahead of its time: as the first health insurance fund in the Federal Republic of Germany, it also included and covered “long-time companions of members who do not have a wife” in non-contributory dependants’ insurance. According to a company regulation dated 17 July 1958, which was valid until the mid-1960s, “family maternity benefits can also be granted to such long-time companions”. What may have been scandalous in the 1950s proved to be sustainable in the long-term. Unmarried life partners were “upgraded” in terms of social status and put on equal terms with wives. This move demonstrates that pragmatism in the social milieu was more important to TK than the moral coercion of its own members.
These and other examples as well as generally straightforward procedures and advantageous insurance conditions made a significant contribution to the good reputation of the health insurance fund.
Seeking a new logo
"Governing the health insurance fund yourself means designing it yourself.": With that as a motto, the management called on the members to redesign the fund’s logo in March 1963. The old logo was no longer up to date: the five interwoven symbols detracted from its impact. The fund was looking for a logo that could be easily attached to a house facade in neon lettering and associated the term "Technik" with the abbreviation of the fund’s name.
"Berufskrankenkasse der Techniker" becomes "TK"
Many suggestions came in. Most respondents found the name "Berufskrankenkasse der Techniker" ["Occupational Health Insurance Fund for Technical Employees"] too long. They recommended a new name for their fund to go with the new logo: the name "Techniker Krankenkasse" ["Technicians’ Health Insurance Fund"] and the abbreviation "TK". The proposal was well received. The self-governing bodies of the health insurance fund were pleased to adopt the suggestions and resolved to change the statutes: Starting on 1 April 1964, the health insurance fund was renamed "Techniker Krankenkasse, Ersatzkasse für die technischen Berufe" ["Technicians’ Health Insurance Fund, Approved Alternative Health Insurance Fund for the Technical Professions"] and had a new logo: the letters TK above a cogwheel. As the TK Newsletter from July 1964 stated: "We hope this logo will soon become a familiar and trusted symbol of health insurance cover for engineers and technicians".
The new logo was a great success and soon became a symbol of insurance cover for industry foremen. In July 1965, TK and the "Berufskrankenkasse der Werkmeister" ["Occupational Health Insurance Fund of Industry Foremen"] merged. TK thus became an approved alternative health insurance fund for all technical professions. Its name stayed the same. The merger of the two approved alternative health insurance funds for the technical professions was only logical. The professional tasks of engineers, technicians and industry foremen had strongly converged. There were hardly any differences between the occupational health risks associated with the two groups. After the merger, around 870 salaried employees and nearly 8,000 volunteers served the TK insurees.
Volunteers at TK
TK was prepared for the challenges of its "second century". The "health insurance fund of tomorrow" was going to be more than just administration. Health education and prevention against health risks of all kinds were the order of the day. And: voluntary involvement is growing.
In the 1960s, TK underscored its good image with a range of new services and benefits. On 1 July 1966, TK began issuing health insurance certificate booklets to its insurees in Berlin. Prior to that, anyone who underwent medical treatment first had to obtain a health insurance certificate from a branch office, or sick persons were given the certificate from the insurance company’s representative at their company. That procedure was a particular burden for bedridden and elderly patients. The new health insurance certificate booklets noticeably improved TK’s range of services.
"100 years of TK – practical, safe and secure – yesterday, today, tomorrow": That was the slogan Techniker Krankenkasse used to celebrate its 100th birthday. TK’s figures for 1984 are impressive: approx. 1.1 million members, 2.4 million insurees, 93 branch offices, 3,000 employees and 6,000 voluntary staff members. While these numbers continued to rise, TK showed reassuring stability in one area: contributions remained constant – the fund even lowered its contribution rate to 10.4 per cent starting on 1 January 1984. TK’s range of benefits and services, on the other hand, kept pace with medical advances: Back in 1980, TK covered the costs of a heart transplant for one of its members in an American hospital. In Germany, the first successful heart transplant was performed in Munich in 1981.
Today, almost 11,000 people insured with TK serve as volunteer advisors for their health insurance fund. They assist their insured colleagues and recruit new members. They inform TK about switchovers to TK and are the gateway for TK to many companies. They are a unique phenomenon: only a few health insurance funds in Germany have volunteer advisors.
Voluntary involvement on the part of insurees has a long tradition at TK. Self-help and solidarity have always played a major role: after all, TK was established in 1884 as a self-help organisation for employees in the technical professions.
TK has relied on the commitment and involvement of its members from the very start. It was a profession-based occupational health insurance fund, and technical employees also viewed TK as "their" health insurance fund. Personal involvement in the fund was and is a matter of course for many members. But member recruitment was not the only volunteer activity. District and local offices appointed stewards, who collected the contributions directly on-site at the company and settled them with the health insurance fund – the predecessors of today’s voluntary advisors.
Anyone can volunteer at their health insurance fund. And today, the voluntary advisors are no longer “cashiers”. They are colleagues, who – during the lunch break, in the hallway or by the copy machine – also explain an issue or clarify a matter and thus help their fellow members.