From next year, most Helsana customers will pay lower premiums for their basic insurance. CEO Daniel Schmutz explains why.
Mr Schmutz, most Helsana customers can look forward to their premiums remaining the same or even going down in 2020. After so many years of continuous premium increases, this news is quite surprising. How has this come about?
Premiums are based on costs – if the cost of benefits increases, premiums automatically follow. Since 1996 costs have increased by around 4% on average each year. This growth has levelled off in recent years, which has had a positive impact on premiums.
Up to now, premium increases were the norm. But now the trend is suddenly going in the opposite direction.
Yes. And we're very happy about that. It’s the first time since the Federal Health Insurance Act was introduced that basic insurance premiums have gone down.
What's behind it? Lower healthcare costs can’t be the only reason.
It's a combination of several factors.
Our own efforts to bring down costs are bearing fruit. For example, we have improved benefit and invoice checks. Now we can process these digitally and therefore much more effectively than in the past.
And what exactly do the checks do?
We're able to step in and act earlier in case of irregularities. Other control mechanisms also help us to identify these irregularities sooner. We're saving a significant amount as a result.
Are there other measures besides combatting misuse?
We have made big improvements to our customer service, for example. This has allowed us to hold on to our existing customers, but also to win over lots of new ones.
Why have healthcare costs grown only moderately over the last few years?
First, policyholders have changed the way they think. Many of them are now aware that healthcare costs increase because people often go to the doctor for minor issues or even in the event of an emergency. In addition, more and more people are choosing an alternative insurance model. That way they not only enjoy lower basic insurance premiums but also better quality treatment. As it is better coordinated, it is automatically more efficient and cheaper.
That all sounds very positive. Does it mean that we can expect stable or lower premiums over the next few years as well?
It’s still too early to say. But I’m very optimistic that annual premium increases of up to 10% are finally a thing of the past. Not least because it is, to a certain extent, in our own hands to positively influence premiums.
With prevention, for example. There’s lots of potential here. Our health is in large part determined by our own behaviour. We want to provide incentives that motivate our policyholders to manage their health more effectively.
And what do these incentives look like?
There are some creative ones. For example, innovative solutions like our health apps Helsana+, Helsana Coach and Helsana Trails. Of course, we'd also like to see politicians supporting us in promoting people's health literacy. I’m convinced: this would achieve much more than multiple health policy measures.
(Source: This interview is an adapted summary of an interview with Helsana CEO Daniel Schmutz carried out by Laurina Waltersperger and Daniel Friedli, published in the NZZ am Sonntag on 1.9.2019)
Author: Daniela Diener (adaptation)
Publication: 20 September 2019