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Will unvaccinated people have to pay their own hospital costs in Switzerland?

Will unvaccinated people have to pay their own hospital costs in Switzerland?
An ambulance rushes through the Swiss evening. Photo: VALENTIN FLAURAUD / AFP
Swiss health experts are pushing for people who choose to remain unvaccinated to pay their own healthcare costs if they get sick with Covid. Is this a good idea?

While Switzerland’s vaccination rollout is still continuing, health experts are concerned about vaccination scepticism. 

Reader question: Will Switzerland make the coronavirus vaccine compulsory?

An estimated 75 to 90 percent of the Swiss population has indicated they want to be vaccinated, leaving behind a large number of sceptics and people hesitant to take the jab. 

Although Swiss authorities have repeatedly said the vaccination will not become compulsory, they have adopted several methods of tackling vaccination hesitancy and scepticism. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to tackle its vaccine scepticism problem

FDP National Councilor Kurt Fluri said on July 22nd that health insurers should not be forced to cover the costs of people who get sick after choosing not to be vaccinated. 

“Otherwise we will have to wait forever to get our freedoms back” he said

One prominent Swiss epidemiologist told news outlet 20 Minutes that the country could reach vaccine sceptics through their wallet. 

“If unvaccinated people end up in hospital because of Covid, the health insurance companies should be able to recourse against these people later,” he said, 

The expert, who withdrew his name due to fear of death threats from anti-vaccine advocates, said health insurers should not be forced to pay the costs of people who “negligently spread the disease”. 

Rui Biagini from the Protect the Kids initiative, said vaccinations should be made compulsory for all people entering education institutions. 

“The USA has shown the way with vaccination stations on campus, where students and teachers were vaccinated at an early stage. Those who are not vaccinated should no longer have access to the campus,” he said. 

“Without a vaccination we run the risk of having to send the students back into distance learning,” he said. 

Others have criticised the idea, including Swiss politicians who doubt that such a measure would be legal. 

FDP National Councilor Philippe Nantermod said it would create a slippery slope which would then require drinkers, smokers and overweight people to pay for their own healthcare, rather than have it covered by insurance. 

“Punishing you for being hospitalised would be a compulsory vaccination and deprivation of liberty,” he said. 

Dobler’s FDP colleague Philippe Nantermod said punishment should be avoided, with a better approach being to encourage people through providing incentives. 

“There is no legal basis for this, the population would not understand it,” he said. 

“The 30 to 40 percent who don’t get vaccinated will be to blame if there is another wave. You could do something about it, but don’t do this.”

Nantermod suggested making more privileges available only to those who have been vaccinated, such as dining out in restaurants. 

“People who don’t get vaccinated are obviously not afraid of the disease. But maybe the possible exclusion from social life scares them or at least encourages them to do something.”

Simon Wieser, a health economist from Zurich University of Applied Sciences, said such a measure would be out of step with current rules relating to other self-inflicted forms of harm. 

“The implementation would be very complex and make little sense. For example, it would be necessary to determine the reasons why someone refrains from vaccination,” he said.  

“These reasons can be diverse and relevant: For example, some people have psychological illnesses that keep them from having a vaccination.”

Christoph Berger, Head of Infectious Diseases at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich and President of the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues, said honest communication was the best incentive. 

“The strongest argument is: We saw that the vaccination works. The side effects are manageable, nothing worse has happened.”

“The Delta variant is contagious. There will be more cases than we have thought up to now. With vaccination we can prevent serious illnesses.”


Member comments

  1. My younger son, who is autistic, thrice refused to take the vaccine as he was afraid of the injection. Also the atmosphere was not conducive even though the health workers and the doctors were extremely sympathetic and nice. It is a ver bad idea to impose measures like this without knowing all the circumstances.

    1. Honest question: arent you more worried of the possibility that your autistic son may get Covid and end up alone in the infective disease yard of a hospital? It seems like a particularly bad scenario in your case. Can’t you deal with the vaccination the same way you dealt with all his other vaccinations, maybe through the family doctor?

      1. Of course, I remain worried. As we speak he has barely just recovered from a Covid infection which he got from the institution he attends. For 10 days as we spent sleepless nights keeping him hydrated by spoonfuls of water and paracetamol, my one thought was how do we deal with him being hospitalized. So far we have dodged that bullet. But the larger question about his vaccination is that he resisted three times and I have taken out a fresh appointment where we will try once again in August. When he was younger we could manage by some force and that is how he had all his vaccinations. So if your question implies we are not trying hard enough or being vaccine skeptic you would be wrong. So the very idea of suggesting that health insurance would not pay for his health care would not only be a breach of contract for someone whose health insurance costs have always remained below his deductibles but a gross violation of his human rights.

        1. I was not suggesting that you weren’t trying hard enough, I would never. I am sorry if it came out that way. I was just wondering how would you deal with that thought. I hope that they will use some in reason in whatever incentive they design (insurance companies already pay for the consequences of a lot of unhealthy behaviors anyway). All the best!

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