BACKGROUND: In 1999, 5 complementary procedures were included into the Swiss basic health insurance on a provisional basis. In consequence, many people expected a substantial increase of costs of up to CHF 110 million or even higher.
METHODS: Data on consultation costs at the expense of basic health insurance for the period of 1997-2003 were analyzed for 206 certified complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) physicians with 1 or multiple certificates for complementary medicine. The data was provided by the Swiss health insurers' data pool (santésuisse). The 2 major Swiss health insurers provided additional cost data of expenditures reimbursed by private health insurance for complementary medicine. This allowed a longitudinal analysis of consultation costs at the expense of basic health insurance and the costs of private health insurance of certified CAM physicians. Furthermore, those costs were compared to the respective costs of 119 non-certified CAM physicians and 145 physicians in conventional practices.
RESULTS: The development of consultation costs of certified CAM physicians at the expense of basic health insurance showed a net annual increase of CHF 54,200 per physician between 1998 and 2002 and of CHF 35.9 million for all 663 certified CAM physicians. On the other hand, costs at the expense of private health insurance for complementary medicine decreased in the same period by CHF 34,300 per certified CAM physician and by CHF 22.8 million for all 663 certified CAM physicians. Conclusion: The inclusion of 5 complementary disciplines into the Swiss basic health insurance led to an increase of costs, which was, however, much lower than predicted.