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Pointless check-ups to blame for soaring healthcare costs, Swiss doctors claim

Pointless check-ups to blame for soaring healthcare costs, Swiss doctors claim

With the cost of health insurance set to soar again in 2024, some doctors have admitted that they are partly responsible for the rising cost of healthcare in Switzerland. Several practitioners in Bern told the NZZ am Sonntag that up to half of medical examinations are pointless and are simply used to increase bills.

Doctors in Switzerland partly to blame for rising costs

Speaking to the NZZ, the two doctors who wished to remain anonymous argued that “some of us have lost our moral compass” and are partly to blame for the increasing cost of healthcare and health insurance in Switzerland. For instance, they claimed that some GPs demand additional fees of between 500 and 3.500 francs in order to carry out procedures or bump patients up waiting lists for examinations.

One of the doctors noted that "40 to 50 percent of the cases that come to me do not have a problem that I can solve." The other explained that "the demand for examinations such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computer tomography (CT) has exploded. These images are expensive and often medically unnecessary." 

"Just because they can" attitude common during Swiss medical visits

They argued that in most cases the only reason why the expensive scans are done is because they increase the amount healthcare providers can charge and are freely available to patients on the advice of a doctor. The problem can also be shown geographically: according to the Swiss Atlas of Health Services, three times more brain scans are carried out in Neuchâtel compared to St. Gallen for no discernible medical reason. 

The doctors also blamed GPs for the rising costs, claiming that on occasion “they only examine patients superficially and then send them to specialists.” They concluded that they are “certain” that unnecessary treatments and examinations are part of the reason why healthcare costs are skyrocketing in Switzerland.

Pointless examinations just too lucrative for Swiss healthcare providers

Speaking to the NZZ, health economist Heinz Locher noted that referrals and pointless exams are just too financially lucrative for healthcare providers: “Too many people benefit, so nobody changes anything.” The FMH medical association agreed, noting that “avoiding over-provision is an ongoing and challenging task”.

In response to the claims, Susanne Dedamke, director of the Swiss Patents’ Organisation, noted that they are seeing a “significant increase” in the number of additional fees requested by caregivers in order to fast-track treatments and exams. For their part, while they did not address the doctors’ accusations directly, the Federal Office of Public Health wrote in a statement that these extra fees are illegal and “contrary to the principles of health insurance".

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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