health insurance For Members

Would people in Switzerland benefit from a government healthcare scheme?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Would people in Switzerland benefit from a government healthcare scheme?

In view of high — and still increasing — health insurance premiums, some MPs are pushing for a publicly-run scheme. But could such a system be implemented in Switzerland?


Unlike is the case elsewhere in Europe, the Swiss healthcare system is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Every resident must have a basic health insurance coverage — KVG in German, and LaMal in French and Italian — purchasing it from one of about 60 private carriers.

The government’s only role is to ensure that all insurance companies offer the same basic coverage to everyone and that they have the same pricing.

READ ALSO: How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe? 

Calls for change

In view of very high health insurance premiums, which are set to increase further in 2024, the left-wing Social Democratic Party is calling for a new system that would scrap multiple private carriers in favour of just one public insurance provider: the government.

The reason for this radical change is that “with a single player, it will be easier to maintain decent prices,” according to MP Baptiste Hurni, who is behind this proposal.

He also points out that just one public insurance provider will be more easily controlled than dozens of private companies and “will prevent abuse at each stage of the system.”

Hurni proposes that each canton, rather than the federal government, creates its own insurance company for its residents.


Could this idea win the favour of Switzerland’s population?

If enough signatures are collected to bring this proposal to the ballot box, Swiss citizens would have the last word.

But based on a similar referendum in 2014, the success of this measure doesn’t seem guaranteed.

At that time, 62 percent of voters said ‘no’ to the plan, also brought forth by Social Democrats.

Seven years prior, in 2007, 71 percent rejected similar reforms.

In both these instances, those opposing the change argued that a private insurance system offers more choices  and provides a higher quality of services —including better access to specialists and shorter wait times for medical procedures —  than a public option.

They also say higher premiums are inevitable given an ageing population, and claim that shifting to a public system would generate few savings.


Can this move succeed, given the soaring healthcare premiums?

The premiums increased by an average of 6.6 percent this year, and are set to go up even more in 2024.

It is, however, too early to definitely say whether the Swiss could be more willing to accept a ‘public option’ now, given these substantial hikes.

In the meantime, this issue will be debated in more depth at the party’s assembly on August 26th.


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