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Cost of Swiss health insurance to rise by up to '9 percent’

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Cost of Swiss health insurance to rise by up to '9 percent’
Health Minister Alain Berset announces substantial health premium hikes .Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP

Switzerland’s Health Minister Alain Berset has warned that the premiums of the country’s obligatory health insurance will increase sharply in 2024.

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The fact that premiums will rise next year is not a surprise per se, although the exact hike will not be officially released until October.

But in an interview with Swiss media on Thursday, Berset said the premiums “will increase on average by 8 to 9 percent “— higher than this year’s hike of 6.6 percent.

The reason for such a sharp increase, Berset said, is that this year's health costs have already been higher than expected.

Aside from lingering financial effects of the Covid pandemic, other cost-raising factors include more expensive medications, overcharging for some treatments, and longevity.

Although the last factor is a positive development overall, longer life expectancy also means health insurance has to pay for chronic conditions associated with aging.

Additionaly, funds invested by health insurance companies, “lost 1.8 billion francs on the financial markets this year", Beset added.

Also to blame, according to Berset, are cantons and interest groups (like Santésuisse, an umbrella organisation representing insurance carriers which is pushing for even higher premiums), "which block reforms aimed at reducing costs”,

READ ALSO: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

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Limited power to act

The Federal Council has only limited room for maneuver in the area of healthcare costs, because they falls under the sovereignty of the cantons, he pointed out.

The federal government regulates financing of the health system, ensures the quality of care, as well as safety of drugs and medical devices, and promotes research and training.

It also supervises dozens of private carriers to ensure that they comply with the federal 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.

Cantons, on the other hand, are responsible for designing health care policies on their territories, licensing medical providers, coordinating hospital services, and — yes — setting healthcare premiums.

The reason is that cantons have different health infrastructure and levels of government funding.

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

So while in some cantons rates are equal to (or lower than) the national average, in others they exceed that number.

In 2023, for instance, the highest, above-national-average premiums hit Neuchâtel (+9.5 percent), Appenzell Innerrhoden (9.3 percent), and Ticino (9.2 percent).

In 2024 as well, premiums in some cantons are expected to exceed the 8 to 9-percent average.

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Some solutions under discussion

To counter rising premiums, which create financial burdens for many households, a number of groups and political parties have put forth proposals aimed at cutting the costs.

They include basing the rates on income, or even replacing the current private system with a cheaper, government-run scheme.
 
 

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