Opponents of health initiative extend lead

The March 11 vote appears to be doomed to failure

A proposal to introduce a single health insurance, as well as premiums based on income and wealth, looks likely to be thrown out by voters on March 11.

This content was published on February 28, 2007 minutes

The latest opinion poll - commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation - found the gap between opponents and supporters had widened since an earlier survey.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents said they would vote against the people's initiative, which is backed by the centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens.

Support for the proposal slipped slightly to 35 per cent while the percentage of undecided voters dropped to 13 per cent three weeks before the nationwide poll.

The gfs.bern polling institute, which carried out the survey, said turnout was expected to be around 53 per cent, well above average.

"Considering the current figures it appears the nationwide vote is heading for a no vote," Claude Longchamp, who heads the research institute, said on Wednesday.

A detailed analysis of the opinion poll shows that support for the idea of a single health insurance company continues to be pronounced in the Italian- and French-speaking parts of the country, while the main German-speaking part is clearly against.

"It's a fair assumption to say that citizens in regions with higher health premiums are more likely to come out in favour of the initiative," Longchamp said.


Switzerland's health insurance system is funded partly by state subsidies and premiums, which are based on a per capita system, and which vary according to the country's 26 cantons and different insurance schemes offered by more than 80 insurers.

The researchers expect supporters and opponents of the proposal to follow the recommendations of their respective political parties.

Three of the four main parties, the centre-right Radicals and Christian Democrats, as well as the rightwing People's Party oppose the initiative. Only the Social Democrats are in favour.

Longchamp says the uncertainty about the financial impact of the proposal for the middle-class has reinforced the trend towards a rejection of the proposal on March 11.

"Three out of four respondents said they were not sure about whether their health premiums will become less expensive under the proposed system. The logical reaction to uncertainty and doubt is a no vote," he said.

Longchamp believes turnout will be relatively high compared with previous votes.

"Citizens will want to voice their opinion on a subject that concerns them directly. The cost of health premiums is a very serious financial burden for many people," he added.
Switzerland's health system is known as one of the best and most expensive in the world. The country spent 11.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on health in 2005, according to figures from the federal authorities.

The vote on March 11 is the latest effort to reduce rising health costs, notably premiums for mandatory basic health insurance coverage. Health premiums have jumped by an average 70 per cent over the past decade.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

The people's initiative was launched by a family association in western Switzerland. It has the backing of the centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens as well as some trade unions and doctors' associations.

The plan is opposed by the government, a majority of parliament, the business community, the health insurance sector as well as political parties on the right and centre-right.

A 1996 law obliges every Swiss resident to take out basic health care insurance covering a range of services. The insurance is private and the insured person can currently choose among 87 companies.

The premiums, based on a per capita system, vary from canton to canton and differ from one insurance scheme to another.

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Key facts

1,226 citizens were interviewed across Switzerland.
In favour: 35% (-1%)
Against: 52% (+6%)
Undecided: 13% (-5%)
Expected turnout: 53%
The poll was carried out from February 19-24; a first survey was done in January.

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