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Switzerland says no to capping health insurance premiums

Switzerland says no to capping health insurance premiums

At the series of referendums held on June 9, Swiss citizens rejected the two plans designed to cap and limit the cost of health insurance, and the "physical integrity" initiative, though accepted the government’s new law on renewable energy policy. Here’s what you need to know about the results, what counter-proposals will now be enacted and where Switzerland goes from here:

Swiss Premium Relief Initiative rejected by voters

At the cantonal and federal polls on Sunday, 55,5 percent of voters rejected the highly-anticipated Premium Relief Initiative. Under the proposal, the cost of basic health insurance in Switzerland would have been capped at a maximum of 10 percent of a resident’s salary or income.

Supporters of the plan argued that it would help ease pressure on low-income residents, following years of successive premium rises. Opponents, which include the Federal Council, made the point that it does not address the direct cause of premium increases and would cost billions of francs to make a reality.

German-speaking Switzerland rejected insurance cap

In all, eight Swiss cantons voted in favour the plan. The proposal found majorities in western Switzerland, Ticino and Basel, but failed to win enough support from German-speaking areas. Speaking to 20 Minuten, political analyst Mark Balsiger argued that the “No” campaign had convinced many that the cap would have led to higher alternative costs in the form of taxes and declining quality in the healthcare system.

Speaking to Watson, Social Democratic Party co-president Cédric Wermuth said that the defeat “hurts”, but that “ever-increasing health insurance premiums will remain a central issue.” He confirmed that the party will now try to bring about a vote on creating a Swiss publicly-owned health insurance provider.

Cost Brake Initiative also falls by wayside

By an even larger margin, 62,8 percent, voters also rejected the Cost Brake Initiative brought about by the Centre Party. This would have linked salary growth to premium increases and required the government to make cost-cutting measures should insurance prices spiral out of control. 

Much like the previous vote, supporters argued that premiums are too expensive and that their plan would incentivise the government to find savings in the healthcare system. The Federal Council said that the idea was too inflexible and arbitrary to be practical. Their view won out, with only five cantons voting in favour of the plan.

Speaking to 20 Minuten, Centre Party president Gerhard Pfister made the point that both referendums faced a well-coordinated opposition campaign. “The slogan of two-tier healthcare caught on. Everyone wants lower health insurance premiums, but at the same time everyone wants to continue to have excellent healthcare…the idea of ​​possibly having to wait for treatment or perhaps not getting it at all has both excited and frightened people,” Balsiger noted.

Will anything be done to reduce health insurance costs in Switzerland? 

With both votes rejected, the Federal Council and government will now enact counter-proposals. The government will spend 360 million francs a year more on premium reductions - though it is ultimately still up to Swiss cantons to reduce costs - will set cost targets for hospitals and doctors and take “further measures” if they are not met.

Switzerland says yes to renewable energy law

While hopes of capping or limiting insurance premiums fell by the wayside, 68,7 percent of voters did accept the government's Secure Electricity Supply proposal. This referendum will see energy production in Switzerland rise by up to 30 percent by 2050, mainly through expanding solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

As a majority of energy used in Switzerland is still imported - most of which comes from non-renewable sources - supporters claimed that the plan would help the country meet its climate goals and reduce its dependence on imported fuels. Opponents argued that the law made it harder for local communities to have a say on projects, and could ruin the mountains and landscape by building wind and solar power plants.

Though a cantonal majority was not required, all 26 voted in favour of the law. Balsiger noted that the fact that it was supported by both Federal Councillor Albert Rösti (SVP) and State Councillor Lisa Mazzone (Greens) showed that it was a “typically Swiss, well-balanced compromise.” The law will be put into force at the beginning of 2025.

Freedom and physical integrity vote rejected

Finally, the “For freedom and physical integrity” initiative was rejected by 73,7 percent of voters and all Swiss cantons. The law would have guaranteed the “physical and mental integrity” of all residents of Switzerland, and that those who refused medical and physical interventions by the government would not be “punished or suffer social or professional disadvantage.”

While the word vaccination was not used in the proposal, it placed specific focus on not allowing the government to impose restrictions on people based on medical choices. The initiative is seen as a reaction to COVID-related vaccination rules and the 2G, 2G+ and 3G policies enacted during the pandemic.

In response, the government made the point that there is already a right to physical integrity in the Swiss constitution and that the proposal lacked clarity as to what, if anything, would happen, if the law was passed.

Explaining their defeat, Balsiger argued that the vote was simply overshadowed by the three others. “The initiative committee also failed to explain to people why an addition was needed to a basic right that is already guaranteed in the constitution,” he concluded.

Swiss federal referendum results, June 2024

In all, here are the full federal referendum results in Switzerland for June 2024:

Premium Relief Initiative

  • Total votes: 2.508.323
  • Votes in favour: 1.116.910 (44,5 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.391.413 (55,5 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 8
  • Cantons against: 18

Cost Brake Initiative

  • Total votes: 2.490.701
  • Votes in favour: 927.322 (37,2 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.563.379 (62,8 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 5
  • Cantons against: 21

Secure Electricity Supply, amendments to the Swiss Energy Act and Electricity Supply Act

  • Total votes: 2.499.156
  • Votes in favour: 1.717.387 (68,7 percent)
  • Votes against: 781.769 (31,3 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 26
  • Cantons against: 0

“For freedom and physical integrity” Popular Initiative

  • Total votes: 2.493.534
  • Votes in favour: 654.996 (26,3 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.838.538 (73,7 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 0
  • Cantons against: 23

When are the next set of referendums in Switzerland?

With all the votes counted, Switzerland will now look forward to the next set of referendums, which are due to be held on September 22, 2024. For more information about the next round of votes, check out the official government website.

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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