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How Switzerland's health insurance referendums on Sunday could impact you

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How Switzerland's health insurance referendums on Sunday could impact you
Swiss will soon head to the polls again. Photo by SEBASTIAN DERUNGS / AFP

The price of Swiss health insurance premiums has been rising significantly in the past few years, prompting political parties to launch two cost-cutting initiatives. The votes will take place on June 9th and there's a lot at stake.

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On June 9th, the Swiss will cast their votes on two issues aiming, though in different ways, to curb the continually increasing cost of the obligatory health insurance (KVG / LaMal).

This is what’s at stake.

The ’10-percent' initiative

In view of the high (and rising) premiums and other costs of living, which eat up a big chunk of the budgets of low- and middle-income consumers, the Social Democratic Party has spearheaded a national vote to cap the insurance rates at 10 percent of income.

Anything over this limit should be paid for by the federal and cantonal government, the party says.

 

While this strategy may sound enticing to everyone tired of paying high premiums, the government warns that while this proposal looks good on paper, the ‘yes’ vote could unleash some serious consequences.

Its main argument is that this measure would cost several billion francs per year, and does not provide any incentives to control health costs.

Instead, the Federal Council and the parliament have concocted their own ‘counter initiative’ that they want voters to approve.

Under this proposal, cantons will have to increase the amount of financial help they pay toward health premiums for low-income people. 

READ ALSO: How do I apply for health insurance benefits in Switzerland?

‘For Lower Premiums’ initiative

For its part, the Centre party has come up with its own proposal to reduce health insurance costs, which will also be voted on June 9th.

It provides for a ‘brake’ on health costs, which should evolve according to the economy and wages.

This brake would work in the same way as the federal spending brake. Therefore, when healthcare costs exceed wages for a given year by 20 percent, the government must take action to bring the  costs down.

The government is asking voters to turn down the Centre’s proposal because it doesn’t take into account factors such as demography, technological progress in healthcare, as well as the dependence of salaries on economic developments.

Here too, the Federal Council and parliament have put out their own counter-project, providing for more targeted measures, including specific cost control objectives for healthcare services.

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Are there any other proposals on the table aiming to curb the cost of insurance premiums?

Yes.

While they are not on the ballot, two ideas have been debated in past months.

One calls for scrapping multiple private carriers  in favour of a government-run single health insurance scheme, similar to that in the EU. 

The other idea floating around is to replace the current system where rates are determined by factors such as age and canton of residence, and base them on wages instead

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