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Health bills challenge Swiss less than US citizens

One in three Americans cannot afford medicine prescribed by their doctors. Only one in ten Swiss, and one in 20 Britons, has the same problem.

A study of ten rich countries, published in the journal Health Affairs, found that 20 per cent of adults in the United States had great difficulty paying their health bills, compared with six per cent in Switzerland and only two per cent in Britain.

In addition, 90 per cent of Swiss received their medicine on the same day or the day after asking for it. This was the case for 78 per cent of New Zealanders, 70 per cent of Britons, 57 per cent of Americans and Swedes and 50 per cent of Canadians and Norwegians.

The study was carried out by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation in the US that campaigns for better access, improved quality and greater efficiency in the health system, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. At least 15 per cent of the US population – some 50 million people – are completely uninsured.

Earlier this month the Swiss Federal Statistics Office revealed that Switzerland spent the third largest percentage of its economic output on health care of 34 industrialised countries.

It said in 2008 healthcare expenditure rose to SFr58.5 billion ($59.3 billion), or 10.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Only the US and France spend higher percentages of their GDP on health care at 16 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively.

Swiss residents spent on average SFr7,589 on health care in 2008, or about SFr632 a month. About two-thirds of the costs were covered by individuals and the basic health insurance that every Swiss resident must have by law.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR