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The Swiss regions that will be hit hardest by health insurance hikes in 2024

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
The Swiss regions that will be hit hardest by health insurance hikes in 2024
Getting back on the NHS might be one of the easier parts of moving back to the UK. Photo: Pixabay

Preliminary figures indicate that Switzerland’s health premiums will increase again next year, but not everyone will be impacted equally. Which cantons will be affected the most?

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After this year’s substantial increase in health insurance premiums — 6.6 percent on average, though much higher in some cantons — it looks like they will continue their upward trend in 2024 as well.

Already in the first six months of 2023, healthcare costs have gone up by 7.9 percent. Based on this increase, Santésuisse, an umbrella organisation for health insurers, is expecting significant hikes in premiums in 2024.

This concerns only the obligatory (KVG / LaMal) insurance, not the supplementary plans.

While the exact figures will not be known until September, Santésuisse's director Verena Nold told the Swiss media that health insurance providers "will not be able to avoid an above-average increase in premiums".

How much of a hike should you expect in your region?

As mentioned above, these figures are preliminary, and could change down- or upwards when definite prices are published this fall.

But as they are based on the up-to-date cost trends, they are likely realistic.

Based on data released by Swiss health system analyser  SASSIS, published by news platform 20 Minuten, the highest increase (13.3 percent) will be in canton Uri, followed by Bern (10.5), Ticino (9.9), Neuchâtel (9.9), as well as Basel-City and Valais (9.3).

As a comparison, the highest rate in 2023 is 9.5 percent (in Neuchâtel), so next year’s premiums look to be quite a bit higher, at least in some cantons.

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Where will rates not increase as much?

The relatively good news is that cantons where the prices and cost of living in general are highest, will not be hit as hard by the hikes.

For instance, in Geneva, premiums are predicted to go up by 7.4 percent, in Vaud by 7.7 percent, and in Zurich by ‘only’ 6.1 percent — less than the 7 percent rise in 2023.

Residents of Nidwalden and Obwalden will see their premiums increase slightly, by 3.5 percent, according to the initial figures. 

People gather during rush hour in Bern.

Rush hour in Bern. Health insurance premiums are expected to rise significantly in the canton of Bern. Photo by Sebastian Meier on Unsplash

Why is there such a large variation among cantons?

Cantons have a big say in how things on their territories are managed.

The federal government’s role is to regulate financing of the health system and ensuring the quality of care.

It also supervises dozens of private carriers to ensure that they comply with the federal KVG / LaMal law, which prohibits discrimination based on age or health status, withholding necessary treatments, and other provisions guaranteeing that every policyholder gets the same quality of care.

When it comes to insurance premiums however, cantons are responsible for designing health care policies on their territories, licensing medical providers, coordinating hospital services, and setting healthcare premiums.

The reason rates vary so much among cantons is that they have different health infrastructure and levels of government funding.

Demographics and statistics also play a role: health premiums in cantons with a younger and healthier population will be lower than in those with higher incidence of disease, and older, chronically ill people.

READ ALSO: Why do Swiss healthcare premiums vary so much per canton?

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Why are premiums set to increase in 2024 anyway?

You may think you already pay a lot for health insurance and can’t understand why it keeps going up.

There are many reasons for the increases. 

As far as 2024 is concerned, half-year data shows that inpatient hospital stays accounted for the greatest increase - 12.5 percent more than in the previous year. Next to ‘blame’ are physiotherapists, who have billed 10.2 percent more than in 2022.

However, both branches deny responsibility for the increases.

“Half-year comparisons are not very useful," said Dorit Djelid, spokesperson for the hospital association H+.

That’s because there are "constant fluctuations" in services and billing, which could adjust the numbers downward over the course of the year.

As for Physioswiss, the umbrella association for physical therapists, increased costs are attributed to “a higher number of medical prescriptions, not higher tariffs,” according to spokesperson Florian Kurz.

There are other reasons as well to explain why the costs have been rising.

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

Longer life expectancy, as well as rising costs of medications, are also important factors.

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