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New calls for glasses to be included in basic health insurance in Switzerland

New calls for glasses to be included in basic health insurance in Switzerland

As Swiss lawmakers plan their return to Bern for parliament's summer session, a new proposal has been submitted that would see glasses and other visual aids covered by basic health insurance. Supporters argued that glasses are a necessary and heavy expense for many, while others warn of how the plan could push health insurance premiums even higher.

New proposal to cover cost of glasses in Switzerland

Speaking to 20 Minuten, Green Party National Councillor Katharina Prelicz-Huber confirmed that she had submitted a new motion to parliament, calling for visual aids to be covered by health insurance in Switzerland. The plan is due to be voted on in the coming weeks, as part of parliament’s summer session for 2024.

Currently, only those younger than 18 years old are afforded 180 francs a year for glasses and contact lenses, if they are prescribed by a doctor. However, under the new plans all prescribed visual aids, including contact lenses, glasses and other devices, would be covered under all basic health insurance packages, regardless of age.  

Glasses integral part of a healthy life, supporters argue

Prelicz-Huber told reporters that glasses in Switzerland can often cost hundreds if not thousands of francs to buy, and have to be replaced regularly if eyesight deteriorates. “The purpose of compulsory health insurance is to provide the services you need to get or stay healthy,” she noted, adding that subsidising the cost of eyewear would help families beset with the rising cost of living, and improve the quality of life of those who need but cannot afford glasses.

The councillor argued that adding glasses to compulsory insurance would be permissible, as without visual aids people would be “severely impaired” as if beset by an illness. Rather than paying for the change through higher insurance premiums, Prelicz-Huber said that increases in tax should be used to subsidise the extra benefit.

Opponents warn of further premium increases in Switzerland

While the plan does have support among the Greens and Social Democratic Party, others have vehemently rejected the idea. SVP National Councillor Diana Gutjahr said that parliament should not expand insurance benefits, especially at a time when the cost of healthcare and premiums are rising at a break-neck speed.

“If we seriously want to slow down the burdensome and constantly rising health costs for the benefit of the population, we [must] show the political will not to constantly expand the benefits of compulsory health insurance,” she argued. Spokesperson for the health insurance association Santésuisse, Matthias Müller, said that they also “firmly reject” the idea as the “insured would be burdened with unsustainable premium surcharges.”

Müller argued that if parliament wanted to offer free eyewear, it should be done through government programmes as insurance is for “financing for extraordinary events such as illness. If almost everyone benefits from a certain service, it is no longer an insurance benefit” - according to data from Optikschweiz, four in five people in Switzerland wear glasses or contact lenses. Finally, in a statement, the Federal Council also announced that it would be opposing the plan.

Jan de Boer

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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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