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Health insurance premiums cause new headache

The cost of health insurance premiums is expected to rise in 2006 more than last year

(Keystone)

Health-insurance companies in Switzerland say premiums for 2006 could increase by six to eight per cent – more than last year.

The Association of Health Insurers, santésuisse, has rejected the suggestion by the interior ministry that the companies should draw on their own reserves.

santésuisse was not prepared on Monday to give exact figures for the increase in premiums. The Federal Health Office is expected to announce next year's premiums at the end of the month.

But a spokesman for santésuisse said the increase would definitely be higher than in 2005 and more like the figures in previous years.

In 2005 basic health costs for adults over the age of 26 rose by an average of 3.7 per cent. In 2003 and 2004 they rose by 4.3 per cent and 9.6 per cent respectively.

Marc-André Giger, director of santésuisse, said the steady increase in the cost of health insurance was not set in stone.

He said there were possibilities to limit it but only if all the players were willing to contribute. But as yet no one had been prepared to do that, he added.

Dismantling reserves

santésuisse has rejected a proposal by the interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, who is also in charge of health matters, to dismantle cash reserves in order to lower premiums.

Manfred Manser, deputy head of santésuisse, said the twisting and transferring of reserves was purely cosmetic.

Manser said instead of fiddling around with reserves, it would be politically more sensible to get to the root causes of the cost increases.

In that respect, santésuisse supports the Federal Health Office's intention to systematically revise the list of basic treatments and drugs, said Christoffel Brändli, santésuisse president.

Brändli, who is also a parliamentarian, added that measures to lower the cost of medication could quickly be decided. He demanded that the Federal Health Office put greater effort into getting costs more in line with those in Europe.

He said that the price of medication and specialist treatment had to be revised periodically and not just every seven years.

Health costs in Switzerland are the second highest in the world, and Switzerland is the only country in Europe where premiums are not income-related.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Increase in Swiss health insurance premiums:

3.7% in 2005
4.3% in 2004
9.6% in 2003
9.7% in 2002
5.5% in 2001
3.8% in 2000

end of infobox


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