Sunday, October 04, 2009

Swiss Health Insurance -- Universal, All Private, No Public Plan, But . . .

From GoozNews here.

The New York Times this morning looks at the Swiss insurance system. Its insurance companies deliver universal access at moderate cost (actually second highest in the world) without competition from a public plan. But before harumphing, "see, I told you so," read this key component of the Swiss system:

Swiss insurance companies offer the mandatory basic plan on a not-for-profit basis, although they are permitted to earn a profit on supplemental plans.

Would U.S. insurance companies be willing to cut the same deal? Somehow I doubt it.

Harumph, sounds like the U.S. needs the "public option." Also from the New York Times article cited above:

Despite pressure on general practitioners, hospital physicians like Edouard Battegay at the University of Zurich say universal coverage also lowers costs by reducing emergency room visits.

Indeed, his E.R. is as quiet and efficient as a Swiss watch, and he still expresses amazement at what he saw when he worked briefly in Seattle.

“I’ve seen things in the U.S. that I’ve never seen here; it was a state of disaster,” he said. “Chronic disease management is better here. If you don’t treat hypertension, you treat strokes. Not treating patients is expensive.”

And even Dr. Schurter — who says her income has been flat for the last five years — praises the virtues of the Swiss system for patients struck by catastrophe.

When her daughter was found to have leukemia seven years ago, “I never worried for a second how and if she’d get treatment and if it would be paid for,” she said. “All was granted as naturally as the air we breathe.”

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