Anyone residing in Switzerland is obliged to take out a basic health insurance policy, called LaMal, but they may choose the amount of annual deductible on the policy – also called ‘excess’, the amount of medical charges they must pay themselves before their insurance kicks in.
The lower the deductible the higher the person’s monthly insurance premium, and vice versa.
Currently, annual deductibles range from 300 francs to 2,500 francs.
But on Tuesday the upper house voted in favour of a bill lodged by Christian Demoncrat MP Ivo Bischofberger to raise the minimum deductible, reported news agencies.
According to Bischofberger, people with a low deductible currently exploit their insurance by going too often to the doctor for insignificant worries, requiring the useless repetition of tests, the cost of which pushes up insurance premiums for everyone else.
Raising the minimum deductible would be a way of preventing this, he feels, and stopping the continual rise of premiums, which have increased by an average of 4.6 percent a year since 1996.
Though the bill was passed by 31 votes to 12, there were some dissenters, with socialist Hans Stöckli pointing out that it didn’t take into the account the ability of people to pay a higher deductible.
Since 1996 the amount of medical charges paid for by the insured person rather than the insurer has increased by 111 percent, while salaries have only gone up by 23 percent, news agencies reported.
Raising the deductible could risk some people not going to the doctor at all because of the cost.
Health minister Alain Berset disputed that the move would reduce the cost of premiums, saying that the minimum deductible has been raised before, with no such effect.
The lower house of parliament must now debate the issue.
Health insurance premiums for 2017 are due to be released at the end of the month.
According to online comparison site bonus.ch, premiums are likely to rise by 6.7 percent and some as much as ten percent, it said on Wednesday.