Swiss Medtech rejects blanket accusations of overpricing

Approximately 500,000 different medical devices are available on the market today. Millions of people worldwide benefit from medical devices on a daily basis. They save lives, alleviate suffering, aid in the detection and treatment of diseases, and improve quality of life. These goals are precisely what Swiss medical technology represents. Swiss Medtech, the industry association, believes in the importance of factual and open discussions about tariffs, pricing, and services in the healthcare sector. However, sensationalistic reporting labelling an entire industry as scammers is unacceptable.

In the story initiated by Tamedia on allegedly systematically inflated prices for medical products, generalisations have been made from isolated cases in the past and facts have been mixed up. It must therefore be stated clearly here that:

  • Physicians, hospitals and other medical service providers may only charge officially approved rates for medical services covered by health insurance, regardless if provided on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Service providers negotiate purchase prices directly with manufacturers, suppliers or purchasing groups, unless these are defined by the Federal Office of Public Health – as is the case for medicines, laboratory analyses, and products on the List of Resources and Equipment. 
  • Cardiac pacemakers implanted in hospitals are reimbursed according to a flat rate per case. The patient’s canton of residence pays 55% and the health insurer 45%. The amount paid by the hospital for a pacemaker is included with all other costs in the case-based flat rate. Differences in price are not charged to premium payers, as has been rumoured.
  • Health insurers are obliged to pay solely for effective, appropriate, and economical services under the basic health insurance policies. They conduct performance audits and demand refunds from service providers who generate uneconomically high costs. This monitoring also covers, in particular, pacemakers implanted in an outpatient setting.
  • No pacemaker manufacturer holds sufficient market influence to dictate pricing. The market is highly competitive. Even prices of initially expensive innovative medical products eventually decrease due to market pressure.

As far as general business conduct is concerned, Swiss Medtech implemented a Code of Ethical Business Conduct (Code) upon foundation of the association in summer 2017 which stipulates very specific and binding rules of conduct for its members. Among other things, the Code provides for a ban on direct financial donations or gifts to medical professionals. Medical education may be facilitated by the provision of educational grants to medical institutions according to the Code; and must be disclosed publicly.

Swiss Medtech recognizes that cost pressures exist and is therefore strongly committed to fulfilling the original intention of the Health Insurance Act: to maintain or create as high levels of health as possible through the efficient use of resources. Any inflammatory reporting may promote reactions leading to over-regulation. Existing laws should be enforced before any further legislation is introduced.