“There is nothing permanent except change.”
Heraclitus of Ephesus. Greek philosopher.
Nothing remains the same from one moment to the next: everything comes to pass, everything changes, everything dies all the time. This is what the Greek philosopher expressed in such famous quotes as: “Everything passes, nothing remains.” The two-year health crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war are cruel reminders of this.
In 2021, Groupe Mutuel underwent a number of changes as part of an in-depth transformation that began as early as seven years ago.
After a phase of consolidation, in particular in terms of legal and governance issues, including the creation of a holding company overseen by a non-profit foundation, Groupe Mutuel began a major transformation that was reflected in concrete actions. A new strategy based on health and pension provision. New values. Bringing the sales network in-house. A new brand identity. Innovations and partnerships with key players of the health system.
Our aim is to gradually move from being a spectator to becoming a committed player in the market. For us, 2021 will remain a year of change marked by the pandemic. However, after two years of an acute health crisis, we believe that the end of the tunnel is close. Yet, the current international tensions caused by the war in Ukraine are likely to have a major impact on our activities in the coming months.
We welcome the measured way in which the health crisis was handled by the Swiss authorities who showed pragmatism during a difficult period. Despite significant strains, the Swiss health system held up. Let us take this opportunity to praise the extraordinary work achieved by healthcare providers who did everything possible to support those affected by the devastating virus, without forgetting to care for other patients.
Strong and encouraging financial results
Against the backdrop of the global health crisis and significant international instability, the financial results of Groupe Mutuel are strong and encouraging. The Group ended 2021 with a loss of around CHF 78 million after we had reimbursed our reserves. Without this repayment of CHF 111 million to our insured persons, our accounts would have shown a positive result of CHF 33 million. Groupe Mutuel has kept its word, as this announced reimbursement benefits its policyholders every month.
Reserves are essential in the event of hard times, and we have seen that this can happen with the COVID-19 crisis, and now with the war in Ukraine which will inevitably have consequences. But we need to remain cautious because everything can change very quickly. In future, our reimbursement policy will depend on the trend in health costs and the situation on financial markets.
In 2021, financial investments enjoyed a successful year with the second best result in the history of Groupe Mutuel. This allowed us to strengthen the Group’s financial solidity, but also and above all to mitigate the increase in premiums since a significant portion of these gains was used to smooth out fluctuations.
However, this welcome respite is coming to an end. Health costs increased significantly in 2021, by around 7%. This is much higher than expected and shows that the cost-cutting measures taken by our political authorities are still not sufficient. In short, it is as if a two-year increase has been transferred to a single year. There has obviously been a very large catch-up effect, but this does not explain everything. We must continue to do everything we can to contain the rise in health care costs. Strong political will is needed in order to introduce effective measures, for example with regard to the price of medications or hospital planning. The financing of outpatient care, which has been discussed in the Federal Assembly for more than 10 years now, shows that politicians are still unable to reform the system. This pace is far too slow.
Stability in the health sector and growth in corporate and pension benefits’ insurance
For basic health insurance (AOS/OKP), 2021 ended with almost no change in the number of customers, which amounted to 946,500. The overall number of customers also remains stable at over 1.3 million. The Corporate sector continued to grow with over 27,000 insured companies, of which 1,500 new companies in 2021. For the first time, this sector of Groupe Mutuel has become the second largest in terms of income, ahead of supplemental insurance (LCA/VVG).
The number of persons insured under LCA/VVG remains stable. On the other hand, growth in turnover in private insurance is on the rise, which is satisfying. Groupe Mutuel Prévoyance-GMP also experienced further growth. The range of pension solutions offered by Opsion, which was bought out in May 2021, further strengthens Groupe Mutuel's new strategy of positioning itself as the only insurer able to offer comprehensive health and pension benefits for private individuals and corporate clients.
To support this strategy, we have strengthened our internal sales network to be even closer to our customers and to provide them with customised advice. Every day, we are working to make our insured persons’ lives easier with, for example, the introduction of a new statement of benefits’ template, which is easier to understand.
Outlook for 2022
The outlook for 2022 is still unclear. However, one thing seems certain. Since health costs have risen very (and even too) sharply in 2021 and 2022, an increase in premiums, which are set to cover costs, seems unfortunately unavoidable.
For Groupe Mutuel, the challenges in 2022 will clearly be to further improve the quality of services and advice provided to our insured persons, to increase our presence in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and to launch new innovative insurance products by the end of the year.
As a health insurer, we have announced the creation of Compassana, together with two other health insurers (Helsana and Swica), Medbase (a major health provider belonging to the Migros Group) and the Hirslanden private clinics. This health ecosystem, which is based on a digital platform, will aim to improve the healthcare journey of our insured persons. We believe very strongly in this initiative and are looking forward to launching the first concrete applications this autumn.