FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Swiss healthcare system – Report from the MEI: a piece of gruyère on a mouse trap!

On September 18, the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) revealed a new chapter in its smear campaign of the public healthcare system. At the heart of this campaign is found a nearly 4-minute video clip that was made in Switzerland during the summer of 2012. The MEI claims that it is a report. I see it instead as an infomercial.

In the video clip, the chosen representatives, from the same private medical clinic, paint an ideal portrait of the private sector in health care and boast to the camera about the services provided by the company that employs them.

Would this be the dream solution to the problems that so many countries are confronted with? Is the MEI the only one to notice what has escaped all the world leaders? No… because there is so little to see. True to itself (and the companies that fund it), the Institute has simply chosen to show what serves its interests, ignoring all the rest.

No mention…

  • of the protest movement in Switzerland brought on by a significant increase in premiums, year after year.
  • of the concerns expressed by the associations defending the insured and patients faced with a flagrant lack of transparency and the growing influence of financial power on providing health care.
  • of suspicions of the companies which have no scruples in circumventing the laws to the detriment of at-risk clients.
  • of the unprecedented crisis that the Swiss are facing, with 75% of family physicians and pediatricians retiring within the next ten years, and that the measures implemented could result in an even larger increase in premiums.
  • of the fact that the Swiss standsbeside the United States in the top 3 countries of the OECD where the cost of the healthcare system is the highest. (source: OECD).

But mostly, there is complete silence on the pressure put on the political class by the powerful lobby of the private insurance companies. A practice criticized by, among others, Pierre-Yves Maillard, a district Minister of Health, who stated in 2010 that:

“There is a real network of economic influence on policies in the health care field and unfortunately this tendency is growing. It is heading towards an even more commercial nature for health insurers and towards even more political weight on the federal parliaments.” (our translation) (Pierre-Yves Maillard: Soigner l’assurance maladie, p. 26 & 27, Éditions Favre, 2010 – source : Wikipédia)

This lobbying power of private health insurers is eloquently seen in an investigative report aired on Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) last November which demonstrates “to what point certain parliamentarians, whether  right or left wing, are, in fact, under the influence. And how government democracy is subject to much interference that is often kept from the voting public” (our translation).

In a context of commissions of enquiry on collusion, corruption and funding of political parties in Québec, the Swiss experience is worrisome. Particularly when we see the disconcerting ease with which influence is exercised by the private healthcare companies on this country’s decision-making sphere.