Swiss Voters Set to Back Limits for Health-Care Costs, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Two initiatives designed to limit what Swiss citizens have to pay for health care are on track to pass in a national vote next month, according to a preliminary poll.

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The twin motions are seen getting at least 52% support, Swiss national broadcaster SRG SSR — which commissioned the surveys — said on Friday. The initiatives will be on a June 9 ballot, with another two measures also up for a vote.

Both health-care proposals appear to have hit a nerve in a country where citizens pay more than those of any other nation in continental Europe for their medical services. The government has said that Swiss health insurers’ expenses increased some 31% over the past decade, resulting in regular premium hikes for consumers.

The two measures are on the ballot because their supporters gathered the required signatures under the country’s system of direct democracy. Proposed by the Social Democrats and the Center Alliance, they broach the same topic, though they diverge vastly on how to tackle the problem.

  • The Social Democrats’ “initiative to limit health insurance premiums” sets a fixed ceiling for such payments at 10% of a person’s income — with the government covering the difference.

  • The centrists’ “initiative to limit health-care costs” approaches the issue more broadly by linking insurers’ cost increases to the pace of wage growth.

The former plan appears to be garnering stronger support and more decisively formed opinions, suggesting a higher chance of passing, according to the poll. This would be a second consecutive victory for the political left after a proposal on pension increases — backed by unions — passed in March. That measure itself was the first boost of state welfare via plebiscite in 176 years.

It’s still unclear how the health-care plans would be implemented if both pass next month. However, should they be rejected, parliament has already passed backup plans that then kick in.

The other two measures on June’s ballot face opposite fates, the poll shows. A proposal by anti-vaxxers that would forbid vaccinations from ever becoming mandatory is likely to be rejected by 70% of voters. A separate referendum on a law that boosts the domestic construction of power plants generating renewable energy is supported by three quarters of those surveyed.

National plebiscites are a common element of Swiss direct democracy and are held as often as four times a year. Initiatives require 100,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, while 50,000 signatures are needed to challenge a law via referendum.

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