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Swiss pay high price for living longer

Hospitals are big business Keystone

Rising salaries in Switzerland’s medical profession, an ageing population and an increase in working women are the main reasons for soaring health costs.

This content was published on March 15, 2005 - 16:58

These are the key findings of a study released on Tuesday by the KOF Institute for Business Cycle Research.

Health costs rose by 4.4 per cent in 2002, and KOF sees little relief for the Swiss in the mid-term, forecasting an annual increase of 3.5 to 4.1 per cent between 2003 and 2006.

The health system in the country now accounts for nearly 11 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a three per cent increase since 1985.

Besides pay increases and the growing number of people over 75 years of age, KOF said a significant rise in the number of women in the workforce has contributed to the cost explosion.

Jochen Hartwig of KOF told swissinfo that in the past, stay-at-home mothers did much of the work now done by medical professionals by caring for sick children and relatives.

Doctor’s bill

Surprisingly, the study found that the large number of doctors per capita in Switzerland had little influence on the rising costs.

Bernd Schips, the head of KOF, said – based on the findings – he doubted whether the government decision in 2002 to put a moratorium on new general practitioners would have any effect.

Schips also said the study, which was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company, Merck Sharp & Dohme-Chibret, showed that medications had "not driven up costs".

Since 1997, medications have accounted for ten per cent of total expenditure on health.

The study also says Switzerland fares poorly compared with other European countries when it comes to cost efficiency.

KOF said that patients in Swiss hospitals stay on average one day longer than patients in Germany and four days longer than in Sweden.

Schips said as a second step, KOF would publish a list of cost-cutting measures which he said could be introduced without affecting quality.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss spend about SFr50 billion ($43 billion) a year for medical services and medications.
In 1985, health expenditures accounted for 8% of GDP.
In 2002, the figure rose to 11%.
KOF forecasts an annual rise in health costs of 3.5 to 4.1% between 2003 and 2006.

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