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HEALTH

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.

Are you paying too much for healthcare in Switzerland? Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash
Are you paying too much for healthcare in Switzerland? Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

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.

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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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