What should be the basis for compulsory and optional health insurance premiums? Opinions of Swiss doctors
Jannot Anne-Sophie, Perneger Thomas V.
PRINCIPLES: Little is known about doctors’ opinions on how to finance health services. In Switzerland, mandatory basic health insurance currently uses regional flat fees that are unrelated to health and ability to pay, and optional complementary insurance uses risk-based premiums. Our objective was to assess Swiss physicians’ opinions on what should determine health insurance premiums. METHODS: We surveyed doctors in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland, about the desirable funding mechanism for mandatory health insurance and complementary health insurance. The proposed determinants of insurance premiums were current health and past medical history, lifestyle, healthcare costs in the previous year, genetic susceptibility to disease, regional average healthcare costs, household income, and wealth and demographic characteristics. RESULTS: Among the 1,516 respondents, only a few (<5%) believed that the mandatory health insurance premium should depend on health risk (health status, previous costs, genetics, and age and sex). More than 30% of respondents supported premiums based on lifestyle (34.6%), regional average health expenditures (31.2%), and household income and wealth (39.6%). For complementary health insurance, most respondents supported premiums based on lifestyle (74.6%) and on health risk (46.4%), but surprisingly also on household income and wealth (44.9%) and regional average health expenditures (39.4%). The characteristic most influencing the answers was the medical specialty. CONCLUSION: Doctors’ opinions about healthcare financing mechanisms varied considerably, for both mandatory and complementary health insurance. Lifestyle was a surprisingly frequent choice, even though this criterion is not currently used in Switzerland. Ability to pay was not supported by the majority.