Swiss cantons to increase health insurance subsidies given to low earners

Swiss cantons to increase health insurance subsidies given to low earners

The National Council has approved a plan that will see Swiss cantons contribute more money towards subsidising the cost of health insurance for low-income earners. The decision by the lower house of parliament follows an announcement from the President of Switzerland and Health Minister Alain Berset, who confirmed that the cost of basic and supplemental health insurance will rise again when premiums are renewed for 2024.

Swiss cantons to boost health insurance subsidies

The plan itself is a response to a proposal from the Social Democratic Party (SP), which demanded that no person should spend more than 10 percent of their salary on health insurance. After a series of debates, compromises and counter-proposals, a “lighter” version of the plan was adopted by lawmakers as part of the latest parliamentary session.

As part of the deal, each Swiss canton will have to increase how much they spend on subsidising health insurance for low earners to between 3,5 and 7,5 percent (depending on the canton) of total costs. The Federal Council had hoped to increase cantonal spending to at least 5 percent, but this plan was rejected at a vote on September 12. 

Cantons given the right to choose who gets help with insurance costs

Individual Swiss cantons will also be allowed to determine who is eligible for the cost reduction. Specifically, they will be given the right to define the maximum percentage that insurance premiums must represent in relation to a person’s disposable income before they can qualify for subsidies.

The plan is designed to cushion the increasing costs of health insurance for those who can afford it the least - a pressing issue, given that Health Minister Alain Berset admitted earlier this week that health insurance premiums are likely to rise by an average of 8 to 9 percent in 2024, adding to the 6,6 percent increase implemented last year.

In supporting the plan, FDP. The Liberals National Councillor Philippe Nantermod argued that “it is up to the cantons to pay for the results of their public health policy.” The plan is set to cost cantonal authorities around 356 million francs a year.

Health Minister says subsidy plan is unambitious

Despite getting the deal over the line, some sections of parliament are not happy with the plan. SP National Councillor Pierre-Yves Maillard said that the idea is not enough, telling RTS that “with the upcoming increase, the average premium will represent some 20 percent of the income for a retired couple and around 15 percent of the income of a household with two children. This is the reality that scares many people.”

Green Party National Councillor Katharina Prelicz-Huber added that "the strength of the community is measured by the well-being of the weakest of its members." Finally, Health Minister Berset himself told RTS that he thought the project was too unambitious.

Thumb image credit: Kittyfly /

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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