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What drives health care spending in Switzerland? - P4H Network

What drives health care spending in Switzerland?

Findings from a decomposition by disease, health service, sex, and age

BMC Health Services Research study decomposes healthcare spending by diseases and other perspectives and estimates the contribution of single cost drivers to overall healthcare spending growth in Switzerland between 2012 and 2017.


High and increasing spending dominates the public discussion on healthcare in Switzerland. However, the drivers of the spending increase are poorly understood. 


We decompose total healthcare spending according to National Health Accounts by 48 major diseases, injuries, and other conditions, 20 health services, 21 age groups, and sex of patients. This decomposition is based on micro-data from a multitude of data sources such as the hospital inpatient registry, health and accident insurance claims data, and population surveys. We identify the contribution of four main drivers of spending: population growth, change in population structure (age/sex distribution), changes in disease prevalence, and changes in spending per prevalent patient.


Mental disorders were the most expensive major disease group in both 2012 and 2017, followed by musculoskeletal disorders and neurological disorders. Total health care spending increased by 19.7% between 2012 and 2017. An increase in spending per prevalent patient was the most important spending driver (43.5% of total increase), followed by changes in population size (29.8%), in population structure (14.5%), and in disease prevalence (12.2%).


A large part of the recent health care spending growth in Switzerland was associated with increases in spending per patient. This may indicate an increase in the treatment intensity. Future research should show if the spending increases were cost-effective.