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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Comparing mandates - Learning from Switzerland

Comparing mandates - Learning from Switzerland

June 22, 2007

The Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, in collaboration with HCFA, hosted an interactive discussion today with former President of the Swiss Federation, and current Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, Ruth Dreifuss, at Gardner Auditorium.

The event, Universal Coverage and Individual Mandate in Switzerland: Lessons for Massachusetts, drew about 75 persons, including reps from the Connector, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, hospitals, health centers, and other organizations.

As chief implementer of the Swiss individual mandate, Ms. Dreifuss was insightful in sharing her political experience and reflections. Today, 12 years after mandate implementation, Switzerland is close to universal coverage, and subsidizes 30%+ of its population. Click here for a brief comparing MA health reform to the Swiss system.

Ms. Dreifuss highlighted lessons from the Swiss experience. The individual mandate raised awareness of health coverage, and instilled accountability for insurers. The Swiss mandate faced implementations pains similar to those Massachusetts is undergoing now, and has evolved into a respected part of life in Switzerland.

When asked what MA should do that the Swiss did not, Ms. Dreifuss emphasized the need to create policies for families. In Switzerland, premiums are the same for all incomes and the mandate has hit young middle class families hard. She stressed the importance of implementing cost-controls. If costs continue to rise, the health care system will remain fragile, and the mandate will lose support.

Massachusetts has an opportunity to learn and improve upon the model created in Switzerland. We thank Ms. Dreifuss for sharing her thoughts and analysis of health reform and the individual mandate.
Diana Ong