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HEALTH INSURANCE

EXPLAINED: Why Swiss healthcare costs are rising and how you can save

After premiums on Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance fell last year, new increases are expected in 2023. There are, however, some ways to cut your costs.

EXPLAINED: Why Swiss healthcare costs are rising and how you can save
Will his vet bills go up as much as your health insurance premiums? Photo by Pixabay

Swiss health insurance organisation Santésuisse has recently warned of a “worrying” increase in 2023 of the already expensive health insurance premiums.

They could go up as much as 10 percent over the current rates — the sharpest hike in premiums in 20 years.

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

The reason are higher medical costs incurred during the two years of coronavirus pandemic, estimated to cost insurers one billion francs so far, not even taking into account about 265 million spent for Covid vaccinations in 2021.

Santésuisse and MPs are now calling for measures to stop costs from soaring further.

“If you do nothing, there is a risk of double-digit premium increases”, Santésuisse’s director Verena Nold said in an interview on Friday.

On the political front, the initiative launched by the Centre / Mitte party demands that the Federal Council and the cantons intervene if healthcare costs rise sharply in relation to wages.

A similar initiative by the Social Democratic party wants a ruling that no household has to spend more than 10 percent of its disposable income on premiums.

Santésuisse is also urging the government to implement a range of reforms to reduce costs and ensure that not so many are passed on to consumers. 

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

“We could also, for example, lower the laboratory prices, as we pay up to three times as much as abroad”, Nold said, adding that a reduction in drug prices to European levels is also an option.

“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.

While the insurance industry and politicians are debating cost-cutting measures, what steps can individuals take to lower their healthcare premiums?

As outlined in our article from November 2020, there are several ways to lower the cost of premiums, even if slightly:

Health maintenance organisation (HMO)

Under this model, policyholders are required to consult a particular HMO practice. Two disadvantages of this alternative is a limited choice of doctors and you also need a referral to see a specialist.

However, the benefit is a premium reduction of up to 25 percent compared to the conventional insurance.

Family doctor model

Your family doctor, a general practitioner, will be designated by your insurance company and will be in charge of all your medical treatment.

He or she will refer you to a specialist if necessary. 

If you opt for this option, you could save 20 percent on your insurance.

READ MORE: Five tips for getting cheaper health insurance in Switzerland

The Telmed alternative

If you choose this option, you have to call a telephone service and get a referral to a doctor or hospital.

This does not apply to medical emergencies and other exceptions, such as eye exams and annual gynaecological check-ups.

Total savings could range between 15 and 20 percent. 

For both HMO and Telmed you can calculate your premiums here

Increase your deductible

In Switzerland, the deductible (franchise) ranges from 300 to 2,500 francs.

The lower your deductible, the higher your premiums, and vice-versa.

If you are young, healthy, hardly ever get ill, and don’t take any expensive medications, then you can save substantially with the highest franchise.

Keep in mind, however, that if you choose the highest deductible and end up needing medical care, you will have to pay a greater proportion of the costs.

Pay the premiums in one lump sum

Most insurance carriers will give you a 2-percent reduction if you pay your premiums upfront rather than on monthly basis.

If you want to want to cancel your current insurance and switch to a cheaper one — your carrier must notify you of the new rates by October 31st — you have to do so by registered letter before November 30th.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to change your health insurance carrier in Switzerland and save money

What if you want to really save on premiums and don’t take out an insurance policy at all?

Nice try, but no.

Even if you are healthy, you still need to have basic health coverage, called KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian .

If you don’t purchase a policy within three months of your arrival in Switzerland, authorities will send you a letter reminding you of your obligation to do so.

If you still refuse, your canton will purchase insurance for you and send you a bill — which you will have to pay.

Also, several cantons — Aargau, Lucerne, Ticino, Thurgau, and Zug — keep blacklists of people who don’t pay their health insurance premiums. The delinquent payers can be treated for emergencies, but the insurance will not cover their other medical bills. 

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For members

FOOD & DRINK

REVEALED: Which city has Switzerland’s cheapest beer?

Anyone looking for a cheap pint in Switzerland is likely to struggle no matter where they are, but there are still good deals to be had for a cold, frosty one.

REVEALED: Which city has Switzerland’s cheapest beer?

Some research carried out in Switzerland is more important to consumers than others.  

This one definitely fits under the ‘news you can use’ category.

A recent survey conducted by consumer website Hellosafe compared the price of a half a litre of beer in 29 cities in different cantons.

The prices come from 2022 and have incorporated recent spikes in cost for beer producers. 

READ MORE: Seven beers to try in Switzerland

Where is Switzerland’s cheapest beer? 

The study found that one of the cheapest pints, at 5.22 francs, can be had in Aarau, followed by Bern  (5.92).

While it is one of the world’s most expensive cities, a big mug of beer in Zurich costs “only”  6.96 francs, four cents less than in another relatively inexpensive location, the Valais capital of Sion.

Where is Switzerland’s most expensive pint of beer? 

Beer lovers in the west of Switzerland would be better off sticking to wine, with French-speaking Switzerland charging the most when it comes to beer anywhere in the country. 

The priciest half-litres are in Geneva (7.72 francs) and Lausanne (7.96).

Reader question: Can you drink in public in Switzerland?

Next on the list are Basel and Davos, which may appear to have very little in common with each other besides beer costing CHF7.03 per pint. 


What does the future hold? 

The study also looked ahead at how the war in Ukraine is likely to increase the cost of cereals used to manufacture beer, impacting the price of the end product.

Grain prices in Switzerland are expected to rise by 4 percent per tonne by the end of 2022, which will see price increases in several parts of the country. 

Accordingly, the price of a pint in Lausanne could increase by 32 cents and reach CHF 8.28. 

If Hellosafe’s estimates are correct, then the price of beer will increase the least in Olten, Langenthal, Chur and Arbon.

Beer in Switzerland

While Switzerland may be known internationally more for wine, beer has seen a strong surge in interest in recent years – particularly since the pandemic. 

Switzerland now boasts the highest density of breweries anywhere in Europe, with the Covid crisis a major factor in transforming the country into a beer hub. 

READ MORE: How the Covid crisis led to a boom in Swiss beer production

In 2020, 80 new breweries were established in Switzerland. 

Switzerland now has 1,212 breweries – which gives it a higher ratio of breweries to people than any of the other big brewing nations in Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Belgium. 

Just ten years ago, Switzerland had only 246 breweries, while in 1990 there were only 32 breweries in the entire country, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports. 

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