Many people in Switzerland are already unable to pay their premiums or can hardly pay them at all – many need support through premium reductions. At the same time, the CEOs of the health insurance companies earn handsomely. How do they justify these high salaries?
Karin K. is a single mother of two teenagers. Although she works 80 percent, her financial situation is strained. “I have existential fears that I can’t get rid of at the moment, and that’s not necessarily a nice feeling,” says the mother during a visit. She doesn’t have to live in luxury, but she would like to go on holiday to the sea again. “I can not afford that.”
She is particularly concerned about rising health insurance premiums: “At some point the limit is simply reached.” Karin K. is not alone in this. In the last SRG election barometer, concerns about health insurance premiums came first for the first time. Almost one in twenty people even have debts to their health insurance companies and more than one in four people receive reduced premiums.
High boss salaries
At the same time, the heads of the largest health insurance companies collect high salaries. Last year’s leader: Andreas Schönenberger from Sanitas with 956,486 francs including pension benefits. In second place is Thomas Boyer, head of Groupe Mutuel, with 783,348 francs and in third place is Helsana boss Roman Sonderegger with 750,880 francs.
The health insurance companies explain that these are fair market wages. And: Administrative costs, including CEO salaries, would have a minimal effect on the bonuses.
Head of the KPT takes a stand
KPT boss Thomas Harnischberg, with an annual salary of 524,000 francs, also sees it that way. He is the only CEO of the largest health insurers who is willing to comment on camera to the “Rundschau”: “I’m in a market that pays wages like this. Whether that is right or not is not up to me, but to the board of directors. But it simply has nothing to do with the amount of the premium.” His wages only amount to a few centimes per individual bonus, “that doesn’t make the roast fat.”
In addition, his wages are not only paid from the mandatory basic insurance, but also from the supplementary insurance. Nevertheless, Thomas Harnischberg understands the concerns of those paying premiums. “But I also want to show the positive sides. If I have a cancer diagnosis tomorrow, then I’ll be happy for the health system we have.”
Invoice control as a premium reducer
In addition, the health insurance companies also do a lot to reduce the burden of premiums, for example when checking invoices: “We look: Are the payments justified or not? We save around 150 million francs a year, which we can reject.”
Karin K. is also happy about her health insurance, she even has additional insurance: “I would rather eat one less piece of meat or go out once less. But it’s important to me that I can keep the health insurance and receive these benefits.” Nevertheless, she would think it would be nice if the health insurance bosses reduced their income for moral reasons.
This was and is also an issue in Parliament. A cap on health insurance CEO salaries at 250,000 francs had no chance in the Council of States, but a push for certain restrictions, depending on whether premiums rise or not, is not yet off the table.