Evaluating Alain Berset’s Health Policy: A Tale of Success and Missed Opportunities
Alain Berset’s Twelve-Year Health Policy Legacy
Alain Berset’s twelve-year term as the head of health policy has drawn mixed reactions from health experts. Stefan Felder, a professor of health economics at the University of Basel, and Felix Schneuwly, a health expert from Comparis, evaluate Berset’s performance based on critical aspects such as health insurance premiums, healthcare costs, and health reforms.
Premiums and Health Costs: A Mixed Bag of Results
Felder criticizes Berset for achieving little compared to his predecessor, pointing out that most of Berset’s initiatives have not been successful. On the contrary, Schneuwly notes some positive changes under Berset’s leadership. For instance, while health cost increases were at 4.5% per year at the inception of the Health Insurance Act in the 1990s, they averaged 2.5% annually during Berset’s term, excluding the last two years.
Cost Reduction Measures Under Berset
Schneuwly attributes this reduction in cost increment to Berset’s interventions in the Tarmed medical tariff, regular reductions in drug prices, and the lowering of laboratory rates. These measures have resulted in significant cost savings. Felder, however, criticizes Berset for not being decisive enough with the medical tariffs. He points out that the current Tarmed tariff, introduced in 2004, is outdated and has not adapted to advancements in medical procedures, resulting in excessive earnings for radiologists.
Depleting Health Insurance Reserves: A Recurring Mistake
Both experts criticize the practice of depleting health insurance reserves, a mistake they claim Berset and his predecessors have made. This practice has historically led to shock increases in premiums. Felder’s main critique is the continued expansion of the basic insurance service catalog during Berset’s term, which has led to today’s treatments being much more extensive than twelve years ago. Felder argues that it remains unresolved whether all these treatments should be covered by basic insurance, a concern neglected since the introduction of compulsory health insurance nearly 30 years ago.
Projections and Expectations for the Future
Without a reduction in services and cuts in compensation, Felder warns that health insurance premiums will continue to rise, potentially doubling expenditures in 20 years. He suggests that radical measures are necessary to change this trajectory. Schneuwly expresses hope that Berset’s successor will boldly implement reforms, emphasizing that waiting for unanimous agreement will hinder much-needed reforms.
Healthcare Costs: An Upward Trend
The average monthly premium will reach CHF 359.5 in 2024, marking the third-highest increase since the introduction of the Health Insurance Act in 1996. The Federal Office of Public Health attributes this sharp rise in costs to factors such as an aging population, the introduction of new drugs and treatments, and an increase in healthcare services.
The Departing Health Minister’s Warning
Alain Berset, who will be leaving the government at the end of the year, warns that healthcare costs will continue to rise next year. He points out that this year’s healthcare costs have already exceeded expectations. Berset also notes that health insurers lost CHF1.8 billion on the financial markets last year, adding to the challenges facing the health sector.
The Path Forward: Radical Measures and Bold Reforms
Moving forward, radical measures and bold reforms will be necessary to curb the continued rise in health insurance premiums and healthcare costs. As Berset’s term comes to an end, the spotlight now turns to his successor, who will be tasked with the responsibility of implementing necessary reforms in the health sector and continuing the fight against rising healthcare costs.
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