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The Swiss Health Care System Vs. The U.S. Health Care System

By February 25, 2006

This article compares our health care system with that of Switzerland. All Swiss citizens are required by law to purchase their own health insurance. Their government negotiates set, fixed prices every year for health care services and medications. They can see any doctor they choose and are happy with the quality of care they receive. And in the end, they pay less for their health care than Americans do.
Comments
August 13, 2007 at 12:31 am
(1) aldo says:

The article states that the cost of medical care in Switzerland is lower than that of the US because of government imposed price controls.

An inescapable economic law states that if you control prices the supply will be restricted. (remember the gas price controls back in the ’70′s and the long lines at gas stations?). Nowhere does the article address this issue. Did the swiss repeal this economic law? If not there’s something that the author is leaving out, either because of ignorance or an agenda he’s trying to promote.

I’m not saying that their system isn’t indeed better – I don’t know I haven’t used it. However, price control will have some negative effects and I’d like to see them presented before coming to a conclusion.

February 5, 2008 at 3:34 am
(2) gator says:

I am a foreigner living in Switzerland.

I have two small children. We have been to the emergency room many times in the last two years. One of my children had a major operation. In this time, I have seen nothing but good in the Swiss health system (with one important caveat.) The hospitals are clean, well maintained, well staffed and equipped. The doctors and nurses seem well trained, competent and happy to be working. We get our health needs dealt with in a timely manner, and with much less hassle and bureaucracy than in the US.

The one caveat, and it is a big one, is that there are far too few gynacologists! My wife has had to schedule appointments months ahead of time, and it seems impossible to see a doctor about “women’s issues” unless you’re dying. This is the one area where supply and demand seems out of whack.

Individual health insurance costs are comparable to what a company + employee co-pay would be in the US.

April 11, 2008 at 3:44 pm
(3) Elias says:

This sounds really awesome! Too bad they have to pay a 60% income tax! Sucks to be them.

July 10, 2008 at 5:15 pm
(4) teri says:

Most people living in Switzerland go elsewhere (bordering countries) for their healthcare, their mandatory insurance covers only the barebones and is very pricey. Need to see a psych or someone in the mental health field? Not covered! As someone with a chronic pain condition, I go to the doctor twice a week for trigger point injections (without which I would be in suicide levels of pain), in Switzerland, the MRI that took three days to get after my automobile accident (takes 12 months there!), my injections (2x a week here), are limited to THREE TIMES A LIFETIME there!!

September 25, 2008 at 8:47 am
(5) Heidi says:

I am an American living in Switzerland. Two important points:

1. It’s not true that most Swiss travel to bordering countries for health care. Most Swiss get their health care right here in Switzerland; physicians are highly competent and they actually spend time with their patients.
2. Neither Swiss citizens nor foreign nationals living and working here are typically taxed at 60 percent on their personal income. One’s tax rate depends on where one lives in Switzerland; personal income tax usually isn’t higher than 40 percent. In one Swiss canton (Schwyz) the top tax rate is 22 percent — much less than most middle class Americans pay.

September 25, 2008 at 7:48 pm
(6) syl says:

I think Terri is delusional. She is probably thinking of Sweden :-) . The Swiss healthcare is very good and I never had to wait for anything. It is totally private but the price for the basic coverage, which includes anything you can just about imagine, is fixed by the government. There are no limits with coverage like with most providers in the States. I have just recently moved to the states and am appalled at the level of service. I have international insurance which covers just about anything. However if you go on and say you pay cash (file later) most doctors won’t even take you and the ER charged me 1800 Dollars for a 20 minute stay. When I told them that I was a cash patient they told me I just owed 350 Dollars! What is that? Seems to me that there is a whole lot of fraud going on here! Doctors won’t take people without the insurance they work with because they can charge ridiculous prices. That is probably why they say the US is the most expensive place for health insurance. The level of care I have experienced is disastrous. Physician assistants instead of Doctors, ridiculous prices, dirty and dingy facilities. Both times I went to a pediatrician with my son there were actually live roaches! I am NOT impressed at all. People criticizing the Swiss health care have evidently never been there!

November 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm
(7) Lynn says:

I gave birth to my daughter in Switzerland several years ago. I thought the care was excellent.

I delivered in a “clinique maternelle,” a small hospital that handled only childbirth and pediatric surgery.

Aside from having a semi-private room (you can buy extra coverage for private rooms and other amenities, but I didn’t) I believe the care was as good or better than what I would have had in the United States. My daughter had all the same newborn tests as in the States. But our postnatal stay was 7 days, vs. 48 hours in America. A lactation specialist came round for every feeding until I felt comfortable nursing. A few days after I left the hospital, a nurse came to my home to check on how we were doing, weigh the baby, etc.

I wonder which city Gator and his family live in — I had no trouble finding an ob/gyn, and never had to wait for an appointment. We were in Geneva.

I also never heard of anybody going to a neighboring country for medical care, and Geneva is right on the French border. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I don’t think it’s common.

November 30, 2008 at 2:23 pm
(8) Neil says:

Comparing the Swiss to the US healthcare system is like comparing the NBA to the National Swiss Basketball league. But in reverse, because the Swiss are the world class performers here.

The average facilities and care given, even in a rural town in Switzerland, are OUTSTANDING.

We have a few good doctors and hospitals here in the US, in my experience overbooked and expensive. On whole, American health insurance and services may just be among the shoddiest offerings in our economy.

Generally, I am a deep believer in the market system. I’ve had to conclude that there are no true market forces governing the US health care system. Otherwise it could hardly be so poorly managed and rotten to the core.

The Swiss system is run by for-profit companies with some regulation from the government. The price-fixing mentioned in earlier posts only governs the ‘basic coverage policy,’ which all insurance companies have to offer to all Swiss. This cements Switzerland’s belief that all companies doing business there must first share in the effort to provide cheap, basic insurance to the widest possible demographic.
With this accomplished, all companies then compete amongst each other for low premiums, specialty services, and options such as free choice of doctor during hospital stays and other benefits. And they do so profitably.

The result? Wide-spread, affordable coverage and service at the highest standards of care.

Taxes in Switzerland? Lower across all income level. Substantially lower for middle and working class.

I was born in the US and lived in Switzerland for 14 years.
Currently, I am self-employed in New York City. A Swiss company still provides me with a $236/month policy. Worldwide, any-doctor-of-my-choice coverage with a yearly out-of-pocket of only 300 bucks. Until the US can match this performance, I don’t want hear any babble about the benefits of our model. It’s like Mickey Mouse taunting Charles Barkley.

one last thought: why do US doctors join the profession expecting to become millionaires?

January 20, 2009 at 8:05 am
(9) CPW says:

Swiss system has it nailed. Everyone’s covered for the basics and there is competition for everything else. Quality of care is excellent.
Dental insurance is expensive and/or non-existent and some swiss do go to neighboring countries for dentistry but never for healthcare.
Taxes are lower than here by a lot.
Where do these people get some of the BS they spout?
Neil, which company are you using?

June 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm
(10) John Hooker says:

I’m a dual national, US/Swiss, I’ve lived in Switzerland for most of my professional life and now live in NY. From my perspective and the fact that professionally I was involved in health care, the Swiss system is indeed exceptional. However, it is under stress as well – as every system because of demographics, etc. In fact, the SAME US problems exist in Switzerland although they are not as acute, because the Swiss are ahead in terms of solutions: the Swiss political culture is that of compromise (although recently under severe stress due to immigration and its exploitation by the right); the Swiss have built their prosperity on an ingrained sense of quality; the Swiss know how to manage a budget and thus have tackled the inefficiencies sooner. In short, my point is that culture plays an important role. More than anything, we Americans have to begin thinking long term as opposed to immediacy, be that in taking responsibility for our health now so that we reap benefits later, providers focusing on long term outcomes instead of multiple short term treatments that make costs explode, and politicians willing to compromise for the common good of the country as opposed to thinking ideologically only.

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