Coronavirus

Corona: “Gigantic profits” for pharmacies through free FFP2 masks

picture alliance / dpa | Friso Gentsch

A few months ago, the federal government donated FFP-2 masks for millions of people. This is likely to cost taxpayers dearly. According to research by WDR, NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung (SZ), the campaign brought “gigantic profits” to pharmacies. They are said to have been reimbursed six euros for each mask, which costs between one and two euros to buy. The pharmacist Detlef Glass is quoted as saying that the calculation “went very well”. “We have earned ourselves stupid and stupid.”

In December, January and February, particularly vulnerable people were able to collect free FFP2 masks from pharmacies by presenting coupons. According to the research network, the action is likely to cost taxpayers more than two billion euros.

Warning ignored

According to the report, several specialist departments in the Ministry of Health had previously spoken out against the action. However, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn is said to have personally prevailed against the vote. This emerges from internal documents that are available to NDR, WDR and SZ.

As early as the beginning of November, the specialist department is said to have warned the minister of “serious financial effects” and pointed out that many beneficiaries “are quite able” to “finance” the masks themselves. Nevertheless, at the meeting of the Prime Ministers on November 16, it was decided that the federal government would finance the distribution of a total of 15 FFP2 masks per person for particularly vulnerable groups.

How the price of six euros came about is not entirely clear, according to the research network. However, there was a “price sampling analysis” by the auditors EY. The consultants are said to have used comparison media such as Idealo.de, geizhals.de and restposten.de as well as press articles as sources. According to the report, they had an average of 4.29 euros at the beginning of October and 1.22 in wholesale in November. The Ministry of Health stated that the 4.29 euros had been used as a basis and that the pharmacists’ labor costs had been added to the flat rate.

25,000 euros for each pharmacy

According to NDR, WDR and SZ, when the campaign started, the federal government assumed that there were 27.3 million people entitled to the free masks. The federal government transferred 491.4 million euros to the pharmacists’ association so that it can distribute the money to the pharmacies. There was a fixed amount for each – regardless of how many masks they gave out. On average, there should have been more than 25,000 euros for each pharmacy.

This was followed by further phases in which masks were issued in exchange for vouchers from health insurance companies. Because, according to the report, not all pharmacists are comfortable with the financial blessing, some have announced that they will donate the proceeds or masks.

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