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Pressure mounts for savings as health costs soar to SFr40 billion

High quality care - but spiralling costs are increasing pressure for cuts Keystone

The government has again called for action to cut the cost of health care in Switzerland, after the latest figures showed that costs had risen by four per cent last year to SFr40 billion.

Announcing the latest figures the interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, said cuts in health care were needed to bring down costs, including a reduction in the number of doctors. She said the costs were becoming too much of a burden for many households.

Overall expenditure on health is now SFr40 billion a year, half of which is paid for by mandatory health insurance. Spending increased by 3.9 per cent last year compared to 4.5 per cent in 1998 and 2.9 per cent in 1997.

The interior ministry said much of the increase could be accounted for by the more specialised high-tech care and treatment available. Another factor is Switzerland’s ageing population.

Speaking at a press conference in Berne, Dreifuss said it was necessary to act on two levels: “We have to try and cut expenditure by keeping prices low and to limit supply to medical services.”

She proposed limiting the number of doctors and said that doctor’s fees across the country should be standardised.

However, Dreifuss’s proposals are coming under heavy fire from doctors, who are worried that the measures will lead to drastic cuts in their incomes. Switzerland has one of the highest density of doctors per capita in the world.

Dreifuss also announced that mandatory health insurance would now cover an additional 12 treatments, including heroin for addicts under medical supervision. The new treatments will swell health care costs by another SFr30 million.

Last month, the World Health Organisation criticised the Swiss health care system for being too expensive. But it received high marks for efficiency and customer satisfaction.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR