A recent article in the newspaper 20 Minutes highlights the nasty surprise some young people experience when their parents fail to pay their health insurance premiums.
Turning 18 is one of life’s key milestones. It corresponds with the end of school and entry into a new world. In Switzerland it is also a health insurance milestone.
Switzerland’s system of compulsory basic health insurance requires all residents to have a policy covering basic health care costs. If you fail to sign up your commune of residence will sign you up and the insurance company will send you a bill. The state mandated system is heavily managed by the government, which dictates what is covered, the size and choice of deductibles, and price reductions for children. Price reductions for children end at the beginning of the year after your eighteenth birthday, when the price of basic cover jumps substantially. Those between 18 and 25 pay only a little less than those over 25.
In addition to prices going up, at 18 you are responsible for paying. For some this can involve more than just paying the current year’s premium. If your parents have failed to pay past premiums, when you turn 18 you will get a bill for the current year and any unpaid arrears.
20 Minuten discovered someone who had received a bill for CHF 24,000 after her mum fell ill and let her premium bills accumulate. Claudia Odermatt, a legal expert at Caritas told the newspaper that they regularly see young people inheriting debts like this. She said that insurance companies are quick to chase young people for such bills that can easily reach CHF 10,000 or more.
Santésuisse, an association of health insurers, told 20 Minuten that once people turn 18 they automatically receive payment reminders and are pursued legally if they don’t pay. However they had no numbers on the number of individuals affected.
Caritas and Dettes Conseils Suisse, an organisation offering debt advice, are calling for changes to the laws relating to Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance. They want to stop health insurers pursuing young adults for debts they’re not responsible for. They want these debts to stay with their parents.
National councillor Bea Heim (PS/SP) requested a change such as this be made to the law at the beginning of May.
Santésuisse thinks the idea is worth considering. Parents have an obligation to take care of their children, however health insurers are not in a position to force parents to do this. On the other hand those young people affected could take legal action against their parents.
National councillor Sebastian Frehner (UDC/SVP) thinks that it should be left to young people to chase their parents to get them to pay. For this reason he is against any changes to the law.