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Switzerland moves to make people pay greater share of health costs

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Switzerland moves to make people pay greater share of health costs
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10:07 CET+01:00
The upper house of the Swiss parliament on Tuesday backed a controversial move that would see patients paying a greater share of their health costs before health insurance kicks in, but the measure could be challenged in a referendum.

The Council of States voted in favour of a move that would see the minimum franchise (or deductible) under Switzerland’s system of compulsory health insurance raised from 300 Swiss francs (€265) to 350 francs.

The planned changes mean people would have to spend 350 francs instead of 300 francs before their health insurance provider started chipping in towards treatment costs.

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The new system, which has already been approved by the lower house of parliament, would also see the minimum deductible raised by 50 francs every four years.

The changes would come into force in 2020 while children would continue to be exempt from the deductible, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has said.

Fighting spiralling health costs

The proposed increase in the deductible is designed to combat spiralling health costs. The thinking is that people will make fewer unnecessary trips to the doctor and to hospitals and avoid superfluous medical treatments.

But the jury is very much out on whether raising the minimum deductible will actually have any real impact on health care costs.

The health economist Stefan Felder told Swiss news site Watson that the changes would have a “placebo” effect with a 50-franc increase only having a minimal impact on the number of trips people made to the doctor.

Meanwhile Socialist MP Barbara Gysi said the changes would hit the chronically ill and the elderly hardest.

The Socialists have said they will challenge the proposed changes with a referendum.

Health care costs are a subject of heated political debate in Switzerland with parties using the topic as political currency in an election year.

The Socialists are currently looking at a proposal that would see premiums capped at 10 percent of household income – as is currently the case in the canton of Vaud – while the health committee of the lower house of parliament is examining a proposal that would see the minimum deductible raised to 500 francs.

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