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Health costs continue to rise

Higher doctor bills have also contributed to rising health costs Keystone

Health costs in Switzerland, already the second highest in the world, have increased yet again by more than four per cent.

The Federal Statistics Office blamed the rising costs on all key players in the healthcare sector, as well as the ageing population.

The health bill for 2003 stood at SFr49.9 billion ($42.4 billion) – an increase of 4.1 per cent on the previous year.

The rise confirmed a trend over the past few years, the office said on Monday.

Healthcare costs accounted for 11.5 per cent of Switzerland’s gross domestic product, up 0.4 per cent on 2002.

Figures show that all key players in the health sector, including the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, hospitals, patients and health insurance companies, were responsible for the rising costs.

The numbers also highlight increased use of high-tech treatments, more expensive medications and a rising number of elderly people in homes.

Costs were shared between the health insurance companies (32.6 per cent), households (31.5 per cent), the state (18 per cent) with the remaining 17.9 per cent paid by other insurance schemes.

No major changes in sight

Officials said they expect Swiss health costs to continue to increase by the same margin this year and in 2006.

The figures are similar to those released by the KOF Institute for Business Cycle Research in Zurich last week. KOF saw little relief for the Swiss in the mid-term, forecasting an annual increase of 3.5 to 4.1 per cent between 2003 and 2006.

Besides pay increases and the growing number of people over 75 years of age, the institute said a significant rise in the number of women in the workforce has contributed to the cost explosion.

But the study found that neither the large number of doctors per capita in Switzerland had little influence on the rising costs, nor the cost of medications.

The government and parliament have been debating for years how to reduce health costs.

The cabinet imposed a moratorium on new practices in 2002 and it increased excess payments for patients.

Earlier this month parliament decided to lower health premiums for children of families with low incomes in an effort to lessen the burden for many households in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

Health costs stood at SFr49.6 billion in 2003, a 4.1% increase on 2003 – accounting for 11.5% of GDP.
The Federal Statistics Office expects a similar increase in the near future.
Health insurance companies paid 32.6% of the costs.
31.5% paid by patients
18% paid by the state
17.9% paid by other insurance schemes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR