Switzerland's health insurance companies want to raise premiums by seven per cent from January, more than three times the rate of inflation. The price hike, proposed on Monday, is being blamed on the soaring cost of treatment.
The seven per cent rise is almost double last year's increase of 3.8 per cent and is likely to spark renewed criticism that Switzerland's health costs are spiralling out of control.
At a press conference in Lausanne, the Association of Swiss Health Insurers said it was merely passing on its costs to consumers. It said health care expenditure had reached SFr14.6 billion in 1999, and was expected to rise by a further billion francs in 2000.
It added that parliament needed to get to grips with Switzerland's soaring health bill. "It's a matter of political will to change the system," the Association's spokesman, Peter Marbet, told swissinfo.
He said he hoped the sharp increases would eventually pressure the government into taking steps to keep the lid on costs. "If you look at the evolution since the new health care law was introduced in 1996, you can see that it's just too large. We think we are at a point where drastic measures need to be taken," he said.
The rise in question relates only to basic health care, which is compulsory in Switzerland. Marbet told swissinfo that four key factors were to blame for the increase: The rocketing price of medicines, the fact that the public and the cantonal authorities had decreased their contributions, the ever-increasing number of doctors in Switzerland and the rise in cost of the care-sector.
The proposed hike has still to be approved by the Federal Social Security Office. A decision is expected on Friday.
swissinfo with agencies