How Switzerland wants to reduce healthcare costs

How Switzerland wants to reduce healthcare costs
Health Minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has announced a package of measures to cut rising healthcare costs while also improving the quality and efficiency of health services.

Health costs in Switzerland have tripled since 1990, with premiums rising in lockstep. 

While the government has taken steps to reduce healthcare costs recently by lowering drug prices and setting specific tariffs, this is expected to have a more significant impact on preventing future price hikes. 

The centrepiece of the plan is to restrict access to specialists. 

Patients will need to visit a general practitioner, ‘telemedicine centre’ or a ‘health maintenance organisation’ in order to have the cost of the specialist visit covered by the government. 

READ: How Swiss healthcare costs have 'doubled' since 2000 

Berset said that this was a common practice for many people in Switzerland but that the government sought to encourage it as a way of improving the functioning of the health system. 

By doing so, unnecessary visits and treatments can be avoided. 

Berset also said a more transparent system of communication between private and public entities would be established, while treatments would be subject to continued review in order to determine which are effective and where improvements can be made. 

The government will seek to ensure competition among hospitals by introducing so-called ‘reference tariffs’. 

In a tweet, Berset said “we must keep control of the costs and minimise the price increases – but not harm the quality of the treatment. Our health system must function well and be accessible and affordable for all. The measures improve control and coordination. Savings potential: approximately one billion.”




‘Cost targets in each canton’

The federal government would draw up a budget with each of the 26 cantons which included a target amount for expenditures. 

Under the plan, a target would be set for costs for medical services, hospital stays and drugs. 

Berset was however careful to reiterate that these targets would not amount to spending caps which would result in the rationing of medical services. 

Health authorities in Switzerland have started up a consultation process until November 19th, 2020. 

Berset hopes to save CHF1 billion per annum with the measures. 

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