‘Worrying’: Swiss health insurers warn of significant price increases

The combined impact of the Covid pandemic and a variety of other factors could see a dramatic increase in Swiss health insurance premiums, industry observers have forecast.

Swiss health insurers have warned of significant price increases in the coming years due to a variety of factors. Image: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash
Swiss health insurers have warned of significant price increases in the coming years due to a variety of factors. Image: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

Swiss health insurance organisation Santésuisse has warned of a “worrying” increase of health insurance premiums due to the Covid pandemic. 

Santésuisse put the increase a 5.1 percent per person on average in Switzerland, although this could be higher as it only takes part of the underlying costs into consideration.  

The reason for the likely increase is higher expenditure on physiotherapy, hospital care and outpatient medical services. 

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

The costs do not however take into account Covid vaccinations, which cost health insurers and estimated 265 million in 2021. 

On the whole Santésuisse estimates the Covid pandemic cost Swiss insurers one billion euros so far. 

Santésuisse called for a range of reforms to reduce costs and ensure that not so many are passed onto consumers. 

One is to establish a system which rewards efficiency and cost-effectiveness in service delivery, thereby encouraging doctors, hospitals and pharmacies to be more expedient. 

Drug prices are also an issue in Switzerland, where patients often pay much more than those in neighbouring European countries. 

“With regular comparisons of drug prices and an adjustment to the price level in European comparison countries, taking into account all discounts, a large savings potential could be exploited,” Santésuisse said in a statement. 

Another is to set up a parliamentary commission to review cost trends and make recommendations. 

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Why Swiss patients pay too much for healthcare

Switzerland is an expensive place to live - and that includes healthcare costs. But a new report has revealed how doctors and hospitals are overcharging their patients on a regular basis.

Why Swiss patients pay too much for healthcare

Some doctors and hospitals in Switzerland overcharge their patients by either invoicing services that have not been provided or billing more than is necessary.

This practice is a problem particularly as health insurance premiums are expected to increase significantly in 2023 to reflect rising health care costs.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

Swiss health insurers have confirmed that patients in Switzerland are charged three billion more than they should be each year by doctors and hospitals. 

Without these additional charges, healthcare premiums in Switzerland could be ten percent cheaper, estimate the country’s healthcare insurers. 

However, in order to do so, the system would need significant changes to ensure greater transparency. 

Cost gouging hard to prove

Matthias Müller, spokesperson for health insurance umbrella organisation Santésuisse, confirmed that certain doctors charge too much.

“We see this problem particularly in the outpatient care, where doctors can choose from numerous tariff positions”.

However, proving excessive charges is difficult, according to Felix Schneuwly, a health industry expert at Comparis price comparison service.

That’s because “patients do not sign a ‘work report’ for the medical services rendered”, so health insurance companies cannot check whether a service was provided at all and whether it was indeed necessary, Schneuwly said, explaining that an insurance company can only verify whether the quantities and costs of the services on the invoices comply with the law.

Patients also have very little power to prove that they have been overcharged, which effectively gives doctors and hospitals the freedom to charge more. 

Yvonne Gilli, of the Professional Association of Swiss Doctors (FMH) said that while they could not confirm whether these allegations were accurate, she was aware of instances where doctors had charged too much, although she reaffirmed that this “did not happen often”. 

FMH said there were 58 cases of overcharging in Switzerland in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, but that “Every doctor convicted in this regard is one too many”.

Schneuwly said hospitals and doctors should be required to produce “treatment reports” which would allow insurers to compare costs and the treatment provided. 

“(That way) the insurance companies can understand exactly which service was provided and for what reason.”

Müller notes that the same procedure can cost up to three times as much in different parts of the country and at different practices. 

As patients do not pay these costs directly they are less likely to question them, although they eventually pay more through their healthcare premiums.