Competition for Suva: Revision of Accident Insurance

The state accident insurance was revised for the first time in 1984. The insurance coverage was then extended to all employees. Suva also faced new competition from the insurance market. Private insurers could thus participate in the mandatory accident insurance.

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The Accident Insurance Act (UVG) stipulated a mandatory occupational and non-occupational accident insurance for all employees who worked at least 12 hours per week. According to the Health and Accident Insurance Act of 1911, this insurance obligation was limited to important sectors, particularly industry. In 1974, voters rejected a mandatory accident insurance as well as two health insurance proposals. By the mid-1970s, around two thirds of employees were insured with Suva. Cantonal schemes and collective bargaining contracts subjected additional workers to the insurance obligation in addition to accident insurance schemes provided by firms or on a voluntary basis. Altogether, approximately 95 percent of workers would have been insured against the consequences of accidents at this time. However, the benefits insured workers could expect varied from scheme to scheme. The unemployed had the option of being insured by a health fund, although this provided inferior coverage. The employed, especially people with family commitments, therefore received preferential treatment over the unemployed.

Voluntary insurance, which also covered the self-employed, was considered as the domain of private insurance companies. The new Accident Insurance Act of 1984 stipulated that private insurers – with the addition of sickness funds – were allowed to provide accident insurance. This did not, however, apply to sectors with high occupational risks that, by law, remained insured through Suva. In any case, private insurers had to provide the same benefits as Suva. The legal administration of accident insurance was also regulated homogenously.

The limited deregulation of the accident insurance market meant increased competition for Suva. This was especially the case in view of the structural changes in the economy that led to fewer workers in industry – who were traditionally insured with Suva. In 1985, Suva therefore drew up a new mission statement that emphasized customer focus and the necessity of new ‘market penetration strategies’.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Lengwiler Martin (2006), Risikopolitik im Sozialstaat: Die schweizerische Unfallversicherung (1870–1970), Köln; Schweizerische Unfallversicherungsgesellschaft (1993), 75 Jahre SUVA. Das Menschenmögliche, Luzern.