Geneva looks to establish first Swiss public health insurance provider

Geneva looks to establish first Swiss public health insurance provider

At a meeting last week, the Grand Council of Geneva voted to establish a public health insurance provider for residents of the canton. The move would make Geneva the only region of Switzerland to offer state-funded basic health insurance.

Public health insurance fund approved in Geneva

On October 12, members of the Grand Council of Geneva voted in favour of creating a public health insurance provider. Lawmakers told Blick that they needed to act quickly on the cantonal and federal level after it was revealed that the cost of health insurance would rise by 8,7 percent on average once premiums are renewed for 2024.

At the first vote, the Grand Council called for the federal government to create legislation that would legalise the concept of a public cantonal health insurer. The second vote approved the creation of a public health insurance fund that would actively compete with private providers of basic and supplemental health insurance. Both texts will now face a vote in the Council of State in Geneva.

Ministers hail the speed of Grand Council in approving the plan

Speaking at the debate before the vote, Social Democratic Grand Councillor Jennifer Conti argued that the government must act quickly to curb the price rises implemented by private providers. “Insurers spent 62 million francs of our premiums on advertising […]. This health system has become indefensible, untenable,” she asserted.

Speaking to Blick, Minister of Health Pierre Maudet said that the Genevan government’s speed in approving the two proposals was “extremely rare. This demonstrates the urgency of the issue: the status quo is no longer possible. We must act.” He added that the cantonal public health insurer will serve as an excellent pilot project for other cantons who wish to do the same in the future.

Geneva public health insurance unlikely to reduce costs quickly

When it came to whether a public health insurer would reduce costs, Grand Councillor Marc Saudan told Blick that policyholders would likely not see lower premiums immediately. “The first vocation of the public fund is to gain transparency, and therefore control. Once we have control, we can work on costs”, he argued, adding that a public health insurer is only part of the solution alongside lower prices for medicine and better management of hospitals and care homes.

In opposition to the plan, FDP. The Liberals questioned in a statement whether a public healthcare fund, in competition with private firms, would attract the most expensive policyholders and jeopardise state finances. In response, Maudet argued that the current system already has a compensation system between providers, and regulations could be added to counter the fund’s financial risks for taxpayers.

Health Minister promises to work as quickly as possible to create fund

Finally, when asked when the people of Geneva will be able to sign up for a public health insurer, Maudet was unable to provide a concrete timetable: “We will study the implementation of this public fund as quickly as possible. But there are many different interests at stake. Some still preach the status quo: the speed of implementation will depend on the degree of resistance we have to face.”

“Whatever happens, the wind in the sails felt in parliament last night is proportional to the indignation at this new increase in premiums. Nothing has changed for decades, and this stagnation will not last much longer”, Maudet concluded.

Thumb image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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