New pressure to remove homeopathy from Swiss health insurance cover
After German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach called for homeopathy to be taken off the list of treatments included in statutory health insurance, members of the Swiss government have called for Switzerland to follow suit. Opponents of homeopathy argue the practice is yet to pass the scientific criteria usually needed to be included in basic health insurance, while the Federal Council claims there is little point in changing the current system.
Homeopathy in Switzerland
Thanks to a referendum in 2009, homeopathy methods like acupuncture and anthroposophic medicine have been among the treatments included in Swiss health insurance. The referendum result means that anyone in the alpine nation is able to bill for the treatment with their basic or supplementary health insurance provider.
However, the practice has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, especially in Germany where Health Minister Karl Lauterbach expressed his desire to remove homeopathy from the list of treatments included in German insurance plans. Speaking back in October, he argued that the practices have “no place in a science-based health insurance policy.” Later, in January 2024, he renewed his call for the change, arguing that covering the treatments made "no sense."
New calls for homeopathy to be taken of Swiss insurance coverage
Homeopathy is not without its critics in Switzerland either, with FDP National Councillor Philippe Nantermod writing back in 2021 that the practice is “hoping to get drunk by drinking lake water in Geneva, after having discarded a bottle of Fendant at Bouveret.” After multiple attempts to get rid of homeopathy, he told 20 Minuten that his latest proposal is likely to face parliament in 2024.
His proposal would see policyholders given a choice regarding whether they wanted homeopathic treatment to be included in their basic health insurance. Those who waive the charge would not be able to have any treatments covered, but would also not have to pay for them through insurance premiums. It is hoped such as change would help soften the excessive premium increases placed on policyholders in the last few years.
Supporters speaking to 20 Minuten added that unlike other treatments covered by insurance, homeopathy had yet to be evaluated as “effective, economical and appropriate” by the government. The Federal Office for Public Health confirmed that they are in the middle of creating such an evaluation, with the results expected at some point in 2024.
Homeopathy remains very popular in Switzerland
In the meantime, it is unclear how many in parliament will back Nantermod’s proposal. Bear in mind that 67 percent of Swiss citizens voted in favour of incorporating homeopathy into insurance coverage back in 2009. What's more, 29 percent of the population said that they used some form of homeopathy, TCM or acupuncture at least once in 2019, according to a study from the Federal Statistical Office.
For its part, the Federal Council told 20 Minuten that it is sceptical as to whether the change would be worth it or proportional. The government noted that homeopathy costs basic insurance providers 10 million francs a year, and that if it were struck off the list of treatments, it would save those with 330-franc per month premiums a single franc a year.