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Parliament rejects revised health insurance law

The new health insurance law requires further treatment Keystone

The Swiss parliament has rejected government proposals for revising the country’s health insurance law after three years of wrangling.

This content was published on December 17, 2003 - 16:31

The Left argued that the changes would cause chaos rather than cut costs and check spiralling health premiums.

The revised law would have limited the number of doctors, eased imports of cheaper drugs and reduced the number of services covered by mandatory health insurance.

The rejection comes two months after the government announced that health insurance premiums were to rise by an average of 4.3 per cent next year.

Even though doctors as well as patient organisations were in favour of cutting costs, hammering out the details of a savings plan ultimately proved too difficult.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a compromise deal brokered by a parliamentary committee, with the Social Democrats and the Green Party leading the charge.

“There are many elements we are not happy with and we didn’t think the proposed compromise could work,” Franziska Teuscher of the Green Party told swissinfo.

“As it stands at the moment, the law is not exactly in favour of families and that’s an area we want to improve. We just have to start from scratch again.”

“We have failed,” Bruno Frick, president of the committee, told swissinfo. “It has become obvious that finding a good solution within healthcare is very difficult.”

Status quo

During Wednesday’s debate the interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, repeatedly warned against allowing the proposal to fail.

“Families could benefit from the new law. It’s a compromise - it may not be perfect but it’s better than the status quo,” he said.

Both the centre-right Radicals and the rightwing Swiss People’s Party supported the revision.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Roland Borer of the People’s Party.

Emergency law

Despite threats from Couchepin that rejection would mean the introduction of emergency legislation, the centre-right Christian Democrats refused to be cajoled.

Most party members abstained from the vote, clearing the way for the Left to carry the day.

“We have shown the People’s Party and the Radical Party that there is no political solution without the support of the Christian Democrats,” said Frick, a Christian Democrat.

The government will now have to come up with a new proposal and present it to both chambers – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

swissinfo, Christian Raaflaub

In brief

The current health insurance law came into force in 1996.

Under the legislation, everyone living in Switzerland is subject to obligatory health insurance.

Health insurance premiums can differ from canton to canton.

Insurers may not refuse the elderly or sick people.

Insured people in lower income categories have the right to reduced premiums, which are subsidised by the government or the cantons. The latest proposal aimed to cut costs in the sector.

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