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Swiss Treat: Single Payer on the Ballot -- in Switzerland

Swiss Treat: Single Payer on the Ballot -- in Switzerland

March 11, 2007

There's an election today worth keeping an eye on. Voters in Switzerland are going to the polls today to decide whether to reorganize their national health system by reducing the number of health insurers from the current 87 to 1.

We have been interested in the Swiss system for some time now -- one of two nation's with a privately based, decentralized health system and an individual mandate. The Netherlands is the other. The Dutch mandate has been in effect for only two years, and the Swiss mandate dates back to 1996. The Swiss have universal coverage and the cost of their health system should make us gloat -- for every dollar we spend, they spend about 68 cents. But the Swiss only look good in comparison with the US. They have the second most expensive system on the planet -- a factor fueling interest in the current ballot initiative.

The initiative is being advanced by the Socialist Party, as well as consumer and family groups. In addition to setting up a single payer, their initiative would vary premium contributions to income and wealth. Proponents talk about the administrative savings in moving to one payer.

The initiative is being opposed by center and right wing parties. Opponents suggest the change would diminish quality of care and freedom of choice. (Where could they have dreamed up those arguments?)

German parts of the Swiss population seem most opposed, while the Italian parts of the population are most in favor -- those pesky French are somewhere in between. Polling as of last Friday suggests the opponents are winning the argument -- ahead by ten points in the most recent poll. Click here for an article on the referendum and the recent polling.

Can't find anything in the US media on this. I have a Swiss student in my health policy class keeping me fully informed. We'll give you the results tomorrow. Makes me hungry for chocolate!
John McDonough