Health insurance: the consequences of Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has refocused our attention and encouraged new practices. The choice of insurance coverage, services offered by insurers, cost of premiums… What are the possible consequences of Covid-19 in the health insurance sector? Read the perspective of your Swiss Risk & Care brokerage company.
The September restart is usually a key time to look at your current health insurance, and even more so this year due to the world crisis situation. Health, and access to care in particular, is more than ever at the heart of everyone’s concerns. Consequently, it is important to understand your health insurance cover and make sure it is adapted to your needs. Firstly, to avoid unnecessary expense due to being over-insured or subscribing to superfluous services and secondly, to be sure of optimal care in the event of an incident.

The quality of insurance services first and foremost

Up to present, a high premium was sometimes dissuasive for many people in Switzerland, who were none the less aware of the importance of having good coverage but who were in good health so deferred taking out supplementary insurance. Now however, primary interest is focusing on the quality of the services offered by insurers’, analyses Stéphane Buff, Director of Individual Solutions for Health Insurance (FMSI) at Swiss Risk & Care.
Even if supplementary insurance policies are not required for hospital admissions due to coronavirus in Switzerland (see below), they bridge the gaps in basic insurance policies, such as for the reimbursement of medication, transport or costs incurred if abroad. The range of care has been extended to improve the quality of service: natural medicine, homeopathy, specific treatments abroad, optical needs, dental care, fitness, etc. Faced with the multitude of offers available from insurers, Swiss Risk & Care analyses individual needs in these fields, guides each client to the most suitable solutions and assists in setting up new insurance contracts.
Playing on the anxiety created by the pandemic, unscrupulous players are canvassing through call centres to offer new health insurance. ‘Once the insurance policy has been signed, it’s difficult to cancel it because the person is bound by the contract for several years. Therefore, it’s important not to sign any documents before investigating them beforehand’, reminds Stéphane Buff.

Telemedicine: a favoured type of insurance in the future?

The health crisis has changed how the Swiss feel about telemedicine. During the period of semi-lockdown, the demand soared for remote medical services – by telephone and Internet. The reason for this was the closure of a great number of medical facilities and the fear of being infected by entering a medical practice or hospital.
Will this trend continue post coronavirus? According to our expert, Stéphane Buff, telemedicine has proved itself and given overall satisfaction. ‘Although we observed some reticence prior to the pandemic, many Swiss people experienced the efficiency of remote consultations. Not all problems can be treated in this way, however telemedicine means the care pathway can be optimised. The patient receives advice quickly or is directed to a specialist. This efficiency is the reason why insurers are offering reductions for premiums on so-called alternative models as these limit the choice of primary care provider. When this is a telemedicine centre, often the maximum discount is offered. Concerned about cost and won over by their initial experiences in remote medical care, a good many policyholders may choose this option in the future.

What about health insurance premiums?

Insurance premiums in 2021 should not be impacted by Covid-19. The additional costs relating to coronavirus will be paid from the financial reserves that healthcare insurance funds are legally obliged to accumulate. The premiums were deposited in July, so insurers would have had difficulty in assessing an accurate increase or decrease in health care expenses that were paid out. The same logic as used in previous years will probably be applied’, predicts Philippe Roche, Medical Expenses Expert at Swiss Risk & Care.
But shouldn’t the premiums be reduced? The decrease in expenses relating to consultations and surgical interventions that could not be carried out during the second quarter of the year could tip the scales in favour of this. However, we are dealing with two unknowns: a possible catch-up effect as medical practices and hospitals resume their activities, and a potential new wave of Covid-19. According to Philippe Roche, if the pandemic ended now, it should not have a significant impact on the cost of premiums, either positively or negatively.
However, some political actors are worried about the constitution of new reserves that may lead to increased premiums in the future. ‘Most insurers are economically healthy and some have reserves that far exceed the minimum requirements; in fact, several cantonal initiatives aim to fix an upper threshold. At the current time, we do not anticipate a pessimistic situation. It now remains to be seen how the coronavirus crisis evolves’, concludes Philippe Roche.
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Healthcare provision related to coronavirus

Since 25 June 2020 and in the event of illness, the costs for a coronavirus screening test are assumed by the federal government without any participation from the individual. However, the costs are not reimbursed on the basis of a voluntary test, requested for example to obtain an attestation in view of a trip or to give to an employer. The medical consultation is covered by basic health insurance (LAMal). For the insured person, this means the consultation is reimbursed once the retention fee and deductible have been accounted for. The choice of retention fee can significantly impact the budget and it is not always obvious to decide which is the most suitable for each individual situation. Our experts are ready to provide advice on this subject.

Cancellation of health insurance policies

Requests to cancel supplementary insurance should be received at the latest by 30 September. This date is valid for all companies, with the exception of Assura and Groupe Mutuel. The deadline for basic health insurance has been set as 30 November. Please note, in both cases, the relevant date is the date on which the insurer receives notice.
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