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Swiss premium relief vote shifts towards rejection

Summary:
Rising health insurance premiums, which partly fund Switzerland’s healthcare system, are a key concern among Swiss voters. An initiative that aims to subsidise the premiums of those on low incomes will be put to voters on 6 June 2024. Had the vote taken place in April 2024, 56% of voters would have supported it. However, a recent poll now puts the percentage at 50%, making the result difficult to call. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.comWhy has support for the initiative faded? The main reason appears to be concerns around how the plan will be funded. After a recent successful vote to increase state pensions by 1/12th, which was presented by many as affordable, attention quickly shifted to how to fund it. The inevitable answer was via tax increases, which the government plans

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Rising health insurance premiums, which partly fund Switzerland’s healthcare system, are a key concern among Swiss voters. An initiative that aims to subsidise the premiums of those on low incomes will be put to voters on 6 June 2024. Had the vote taken place in April 2024, 56% of voters would have supported it. However, a recent poll now puts the percentage at 50%, making the result difficult to call.

Swiss premium relief vote shifts towards rejection
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Why has support for the initiative faded?

The main reason appears to be concerns around how the plan will be funded. After a recent successful vote to increase state pensions by 1/12th, which was presented by many as affordable, attention quickly shifted to how to fund it. The inevitable answer was via tax increases, which the government plans to apply to salaries and VAT. Given the extent to which Bern is spending in excess of revenue, voters are increasingly wondering how much more tax they might need to pay if this vote succeeds. And, unlike the pension proposal, which benefits the vast majority of voters above a certain age, the health insurance plan will only benefit those on lower incomes.

In addition, unlike the pension vote which caught many by surprise, a government counterproposal will come into force if the plan is rejected. The counterproposal will require cantons to further subsidise premiums, shifting the burden from strained federal finances. The counterproposal has been rejected by vote organisers who say it isn’t sufficient. However, it could be enough for some voters, especially those in cantons with relatively low healthcare cost – these cantons would subsidise high cost cantons if the initiative is successful.

The vote is highly divisive. Majorities from the left (Greens 82%, Socialists 89%) support it while majorities across all the other parties (Liberal Greens 30%, Centre 36% for, PLR/FDP 15%, UDC/SVP 34%) are against it. Support is also divided across linguistic boundaries (Italian-speaking 69%, French-speaking 66%, German-speaking 43%).

Ultimately, it largely comes down to economics. Those getting a helping hand are in favour and those hoping for a real fix to rising overall healthcare costs who are excluded from the proposed benefits, either because of their income or the relatively low cost of healthcare in their canton, are largely against it.

More on this:
SRF article (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now

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