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Tightening the belt Controversial budget caps for health costs mooted

Interior Minister Berset says the aim is to make the Swiss health care system more efficient and transparent

(Keystone)

Interior Minister Alain Berset says he is willing to consider the introduction of a global budget for Switzerland’s healthcare system as part of efforts to reduce rising health costs.

Berset said financial caps are one of nearly 40 measures put forward by a group of international experts, set up by the interior ministry last December.

His ministry would examine the recommendations and present proposals to the government before next summer, he told a news conference on Wednesday.

The cabinet has agreed five basic principles, including a readiness by all partners in the health sector to reduce costs, which have risen by 4% annually over the past 25 years.

The Swiss healthcare system is known for its excellent level of care, but is also among the most expensive in the world. Switzerland spends 11% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare, behind the US (17%), Netherlands, France, Germany and Canada.

The costs covered by the mandatory health insurance system amounted to CHF31.5 billion ($32 billion) last year, according to Berset.

‘Delicate task’

He admitted it was a “relatively delicate” task to rein in expenditure for ever-increasing healthcare services, notably treatments considered “unnecessary”.

Berset also called for more transparency in the health care sector in line with the recommendations of the expert group.

The government made a high-quality health system a priority for its current four-year term. “Our aim is to have a good health system for all those who need it, but it has to be affordable financially,” Berset said.

But in reaction to the government’s announcement, a joint statement by six organisationsexternal link in the healthcare sector said that global budgets were “careless experiments to patients’ detriment”.

The examples of Germany and the Netherlands showed that quality suffered due to the rationing of services and second-class medicine, they said.

The Swiss Medical Association, hospitals umbrella organisation H, pharmaceutical lobby organisation Interpharma, the Swiss Pharmacists Association pharmasuisse, the Swiss Patients' Association and santésuisse: the Swiss health insurers’ association, also called for savings to be carried out via the standardised funding of out and in-patient services.

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