Insurance News

Will Health Insurance Cost Less Thanks to COVID-19?

May 17, 2021 - Raphael Knecht

Coronavirus prevention measures have also lent to the reduction of flu infections in Switzerland this year. Will the resulting healthcare savings result in lower health insurance premiums?

The flu wave which marks most winters remained absent this year. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recorded less than 10 influenza infections per week over the 2020-2021 flu season. Even in January and February there were some weeks in which not a single person was recorded as testing positive for influenza. By comparison: In parts of early 2020, the FOPH recorded over 1000 influenza cases per week.

In the past, the number of visits to doctor’s offices and home visits related to the flu more than quadrupled in the early months of each year. Bu this last winter, the number of flu-related doctor visits did not increase at all. Many Swiss paid sick leave insurance providers have recorded lower sick leave rates since the spring of 2020.

100 million francs of costs

The federal government believes that the hygienic measures and social distancing connected to the coronavirus contributed to preventing a flu wave. The FMH Swiss Medical Association told that the reduction in the number of visits to doctors was largely caused by patients avoiding check-ups for fear of contracting coronavirus.

According to the FOPH, the seasonal flu generates an estimated 100 million francs in direct medical expenses. By avoiding the flu, Switzerland as a whole could save on healthcare costs.

Will residents benefit from savings?

In the short term, it is highly unlikely that premiums for mandatory health insurance will sink due to COVID-19. While the seasonal flu was minimal this year, health insurance providers still expect above-average expenses in 2021. Industry association Santésuisse expects healthcare costs as a whole to climb over 2021.

Sympany told that psychiatric illnesses have increased in frequency. The long-term costs of Long COVID are expected to be high. Health insurer KPT says that residents who put off treatments during the pandemic may seek the treatments they need in arrears, which could result in a catch-up effect.

Hope for premium payers

The experience gained over the pandemic could help Switzerland to reduce healthcare expenses in the future. Health insurance provider Concordia told that it is convinced that the handling of contagious diseases in Switzerland will change in the future. Wearing masks, distancing and vaccinating can also help to prevent flu infections and illness.

But whether residents are willing to voluntarily maintain the stringent hygienic and behavioral rules after the pandemic remains to be seen. The association of cantonal health directors GDK/CDS told that there is no way to predict this in advance.

Negligible effect on premiums

Even if future flu waves can also be averted after the coronavirus pandemic, the actual impact on mandatory health insurance premiums would be fairly small. In comparison to Switzerland’s total annual healthcare costs of 80 billion francs, the 100 million spent on the seasonal flu is not significant.

If the costs continue to climb by several billion Swiss francs per year, preventing flu waves could help to slow the premium growth-rate. But the chance of health insurance premiums getting lower is hardly likely.

It is also worth noting that the effects of developments like this are only felt by residents who pay health insurance premiums several years after they occur. Health insurance premiums generally lag around two years behind actual healthcare expenses. In order to estimate what next year’s insurance premiums will be, you need to review last year’s healthcare costs, and track this year’s cost developments, and expected developments in the coming year.

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Editor Raphael Knecht
Raphael Knecht was an analyst and a specialized editor at until the end of February 2023. Since then, he is supporting the editorial team as a freelancer.