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Health insurance law “partial failure” says Dreifuss

Interior Minister Ruth Dreifuss and Otto Piller, director of the federal social security office, presented a report on Monday Keystone

Switzerland's five-year-old health insurance law is a "partial failure" according to the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss.

Presenting a report on the law’s impact on Monday, Dreifuss said it had failed to rein in costs, but that it had guaranteed quality healthcare and a fairer distribution of the financial burden.

The cost of healthcare jumped from SFr34 billion ($20.83 billion) to SFr41.6 billion between 1994 and 1999.

“The law didn’t live up to expectations concerning costs,” said Dreifuss, who wants to redefine the legislation. The Federal Social Security Office plans to propose a number of cost-cutting measures in the near future.

A special fund could be created to take over the cost of expensive treatments above SFr40,000. The number of doctors could also be restricted for three years.

Helping families

Families may benefit from lower insurance premiums. The interior ministry plans to use SFr500 million in unused federal subsidies to reduce children’s premiums.

The project could save a family with two children up to SFr1,200 per year. The government and parliament will decide whether to go ahead in early 2002.

The cost of pharmaceuticals, which has led to recent increases in healthcare coverage, is set to undergo further scrutiny. The authorisation procedure will be modified.

The efficiency, the appropriateness and the price of a drug will be re-examined two years after its addition to the prescription pharmaceuticals list. The price will also be adjusted after a wider comparison with other European countries.

Dreifuss refuses to consider reducing the benefits covered by basic compulsory insurance. “It would be inappropriate and dangerous,” to do so, she said.

“Dangerous because if we didn’t keep pace with medical developments there would be one kind of healthcare for rich people and another for the less well-off part of the community. And inappropriate because reducing the benefits would not actually cut down significantly on the number of medical acts.”

Dreifuss wants to regulate access to medical benefits. A second medical opinion could become compulsory for some high-cost operations, such as tonsil removal and the treatment of varicose veins.

The aim of the project is to limit medical intervention to those procedures which are necessary and to reimburse what the insured actually need.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR