Swiss System Thrives Without Public Option

Highly regulated but market-based system wins plaudits
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2009 12:04 PM CDT
A Swiss professor instructs students on surgical procedures in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)

(Newser) – Given the fractious debate over the public option, some prognosticators are looking to the one-of-a-kind Swiss health care system for answers. The system doesn’t have any such government-run plan, though it guarantees coverage for all. Meanwhile, the Swiss spend far less on health care than the US and are quantifiably healthier, the New York Times reports. But the system does involve trade-offs that might make the health care industry blanch.

Insurers are forced to offer a “basic plan” to everyone on a non-profit basis, and the government directly regulates the price of drugs, medical procedures, and hospital equipment. Consumers, meanwhile, are forced to buy insurance and pay more out of pocket. Still, the Swiss generally like the system. “If the doctor says it has to be done, it’s done,” says one patient. “You don’t wait. And it’s covered.”