Bern: ‘no limit’ on Swiss health insurance premiums

The Swiss Senate has rejected a motion by a Socialist politician that suggested health insurance premiums should not surpass ten percent of a household’s income.

Bern: ‘no limit’ on Swiss health insurance premiums
File photo: Jeff Eaton

The bill by Geneva MP Liliane Maury Pasquier was rejected by 31 votes to 13 on Tuesday, with the Senate judging that limits should not be imposed at federal level.

According to Pasquier some families end up paying 22,000 francs ($22,500) a year for basic health insurance – obligatory in Switzerland – which equates to more than 20 percent of their income.

Speaking after the vote, Pasquier said she thought many senators did not understand “the difficulty that these premiums represent for most households,” reported 20 Minutes.

The senator pointed out that when the law on compulsory medical insurance, called LaMal, was devised in 1990 the federal government stated its aim for premiums to equate to no more than eight percent of a household income, said the paper.

But as a result of rises to premiums, many families are being forced to compromize their health, for example by not consulting a doctor because of the cost.

Premiums for compulsory medical insurance are set by the country’s 60-odd private insurers each year, usually at the end of September, with figures approved by the federal government.

Premiums for 2016 rose on average by four percent on the previous year, with some cantons seeing an eight percent rise.

Since the law on compulsory health insurance came into force in 1996 the average standard premium has risen by 4.6 percent a year, taking monthly payments from 173 francs in 1996 to 428 francs in 2016.

The federal government and cantons both contribute to subsidies offered to certain people on low income to reduce their health insurance premiums.

But the question of who is entitled to a reduced premium is set at cantonal level. It is usually determined by salary and the number of children in a household.

Speaking after Tuesday's vote, Home Office minister Alain Berset recognized that paying for basic medical insurance was a big cost for households, but said the federal council had already made efforts to contain premium rises, reported news agencies.

In 2008 the Swiss parliament decided that cantons, not the federal government, should be responsible for regulating any premium limits and that should be respected, said Berset.

Despite failing to get her bill passed at federal level Pasquier said she maintained hope that the ten percent principle would be considered at cantonal level and that some cantons are already making steps in that direction.

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Why your Swiss car insurance should contain a ‘weasel clause’

This may sound like a joke, but it really isn’t: these small furry animals cause millions of francs in damage to Swiss vehicles each year. This is how you can protect yourself against these critters and their very sharp teeth.

Why your Swiss car insurance should contain a ‘weasel clause’

If you own a car in Switzerland which you park outdoors, it is possible that you have tried to start the engine in the morning, only to find that the vehicle “died” overnight.

A variety of mechanical problems could cause this breakdown, but it is very likely that a weasel …weaseled its way under your car and gnawed at the wires, just because that’s what these creatures seem to do in Switzerland.

And if you think that weasel-inflicted damage is rare and inconsequential — it isn’t.

For instance, each year AXA Insurance treats about 17,000 claims of damage perpetrated by weasels, which are particularly active during May and June. In 2020, these claims amounted to approximately 8 million francs.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about car insurance in Switzerland

According to Swiss Professional Automobile Association (UPSA), “weasels like to eat automotive cables, pipes, insulating mats and rubber parts. This is why Swiss vehicles suffer damage estimated at several million francs every year”.

However, weasels don’t just “eat” vehicle components; they attack them in the literal sense of the word.

And it is not a pretty sight — or smell.

These animals  “feel very comfortable in the warm environment of engine compartments. They mark their territory by depositing odorous secretions each time they visit a car. Until then, the mammal does not cause any damage. This becomes problematic as soon as one of its congeners enters the same engine compartment and perceives the smell of the other. This awakens the territorial instinct in him. This is why it bites and then gnaws anything that carries the scent of the other animal”, UPSA reports.

Now that you know how and why this happens, the question is — what can you do about it?

One preventive measure recommended by UPSA is to regularly wash the engine, as this may neutralise the animals’ ‘markers’ and deter other weasels from munching.

How much does it cost to repair the damage?

Depending on what kind of havoc a weasel wreaks under the hood, costs of repair vary, with an average price being 450 francs, according to AXA.

It is therefore important to make sure your auto insurance covers weasel damage.  The premium will be determined by your car model, its age, and the extent of coverage you choose, but it is an option offered by all Swiss insurance companies.

This is just one more thing to make sure your life in Switzerland doesn’t get too boring.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why Swiss healthcare costs are rising and how you can save