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Press review Voters weren’t up for a radical cure, say media

The vote showed that Swiss healthcare needs a check-up


Though firmly rejected by Swiss voters on Sunday, the idea of a single health insurance has helped highlight flaws in the current system and will hopefully lead to improvements, say media pundits.

Nearly 62% of voters threw out the initiative by centre-left political parties, patients and consumer groups. Of the nation’s 26 cantons, only four – all in western Switzerland – voted in favour.

As the Tages-Anzeiger and Bund newspapers put it, most people are “satisfied with the current healthcare system and don’t want to jeopardise it with a billion-franc radical cure”. They also pointed out that voters were worried about costs spinning out of control without competition to keep them in check.

“Voters do not want experiments or a radical change,” echoed the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).

Not so in the French-speaking part of the country, where people would have welcomed a single national health insurance. With the exception of cantons Fribourg and Valais, all the French-speaking cantons voted “yes”.

The Tribune de Genève described the results as a “slap” and lamented the “Röstigraben” – the invisible trench that divides French- and German-speaking Switzerland.

“The Röstigraben was to be expected,” said Le Temps, which noted that “many bourgeois voters had voted for the initiative to show they had had enough” of rising premiums.

“German-speaking Switzerland refused the initiative less clearly than the previous attempt [at health reforms] seven years ago. This new rejection underlines the distrust the German-speakers have towards the adventure that a state fund represents; it is seen as a huge state machine,” added Le Temps in its editorial.  

As Le Nouvelliste  commented, “Despite a blinding opacity of the current health insurance, voters preferred to hold on to the illusion of free choice in health.”

Better days ahead?

The “no” vote certainly “does not mean that the Swiss are completely satisfied with the current system” noted the NZZ, adding that many people are concerned about the steadily rising premiums reflecting demographic development and progress in terms of medical technology.

“Also, certain practices of the health insurance companies – like hunting for good risks and telemarketing – angered many,” said the NZZ, “good risks” being customers unlikely to need much medical care.

The Bund and Tages-Anzeiger noted that “the hunt for good risks was only recognised as harmful under the pressure of previous initiatives”.

“Parliament finally has to put an end to this risk selection: Insurance companies are still allowed to drive off the chronically ill by making them cover the cost of medication up front,” said the sister newspapers.

The NZZ also offered a prescription for improving the current system.

“In the future, it must be ensured that the compulsory basic insurance only covers really necessary and effective medical and nursing services. Otherwise, the system is at risk of collapsing,” stated the NZZ, suggesting that a two-tier system could be a viable option.

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