Health insurance has been mandatory in Switzerland since 1996, and dozens of companies offer the same insurance coverage for basic healthcare and hospitalisation, called LaMal.
However, an estimated 30,000 people who fail to pay their premiums can be placed on their cantons’ ‘blacklist’.
According to a report on Tuesday by Swiss broadcaster SRF, currently seven cantons — Thurgau, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Zug, Lucerne, Aargau and Ticino —maintain such lists.
The delinquent payers can be treated for emergencies, but the insurance will not cover their other medical bills.
Two other cantons that had previously blacklisted, Solothurn and Graubünden, have abolished this practice on the grounds that it is “ethically insensitive.”
A number of politicians have spoken against the system of blacklisting, saying that paying only for emergencies rather than covering all healthcare costs will keep people from seeking much needed medical care.
The issue of blacklisting is now being discussed in the Council of States, the upper chamber of the parliament.
“The majority are of the opinion that the blacklists should be abolished”, Paul Rechsteiner, a deputy from Social Democratic Party, told SRF.
Those who end up on blacklists are primarily people on low incomes, who are unable to pay for health insurance. They are, however, entitled to premium reductions through federal and cantonal subsidies.
The main criterium is the income, determined on the basis of the last tax declaration.
The number of children in the family is also taken into account.
In some cantons, eligible persons will be contacted directly by the authorities, while in others, people must apply for the reduction themselves.