Assura, the health insurer based in the French-speaking part of the country, pioneered low cost health insurance and is now the lowest cost option in 23 cantons. It is also one of the largest insuring around 910,000 people across the Swiss nation including a quarter of Geneva and Vaud residents.
According to the newspaper 24 Heures, the low cost health insurer is set to raise premiums by as much as 17% for 2016. Average Assura premiums in Vaud are expected to increase by 14% to 15%, prices in Geneva by 15%, and those in Neuchâtel by as much as 16% to 17%. This will be the first price increase Assura has made in four years and it will come as a shock to many. Premiums for 2016 will not be announced officially until next week. When contacted by 24 Heures, Assura provided no information other than confirming that there would be a “significant increase”.
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The cantons are concerned because many living off state benefits use the low cost insurer. After these premium increase such people are likely to struggle financially putting pressure on cantons to provide further aid.
Many are wondering how a company left in sound financial condition by its founder Jean-Paul Diserens, when he retired in 2013 could be in such a dire position. In 2013 when he left, the company had reserves of CHF 760 million. One theory is that while other insurers have been putting prices up over the last two years, those on tight budgets have been moving to Assura. Many of these new customers are old, physically fragile and expensive to cover. And these more healthcare intensive customers have absorbed much of the reserves.
Full 24 Heures article (in French)