The Helsana Group achieved a satisfactory result in 2020, with a profit of CHF 155 million. This result comprises the usual robust underwriting result combined with a positive return on capital, despite the highly volatile financial markets. 2020 was unusual in every respect and challenged us at all levels.
An unusual year in every respect
We entered last year with significant momentum, and were able to successfully redirect some of this energy into charitable initiatives following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were also able to build on the positive developments we have seen in our core business in recent years. The result of CHF 155 million (2019: CHF 436 million) is therefore respectable in light of the unpredictable situation.
In spite of the difficult economic environment and a health system that is in a state of emergency, we are pleased to report an extremely moderate premium development in basic insurance for 2021. In supplementary insurance, our strong market position means we can keep our premiums steady compared to 2020.
Interacting digitally with customers in times of reduced mobility
Most of our existing policyholders have remained loyal to us, and a high number of new clients have placed their trust in us for the future. This is thanks to us offering services that are outstanding and valuable.
An extraordinary 2020 emphasised the value and importance of communicating with all our customers, including those who had no need for immediate medical care. We remained accessible to our policyholders via digital and interactive communication channels, which proved critical in a period of lockdown, limited mobility and home working.
Our telephone hotline is an established and popular means of contact for our customers.
The pandemic has brought the value of digitalisation into focus. Helsana is actively seeking to bring customers on our digital journey by focusing on the customer experience and showing them the benefits of technology. myHelsana, for instance, allows all administrative tasks relating to health insurance to be carried out online and around the clock.
Our mobile communication offering is complemented by the Helsana+, Helsana Coach and Helsana Trails apps, which contain useful tools to help people improve their health and monitor their personal health goals.
The three apps revealed their strengths, in particular, during and after the lockdown in the spring of the reporting year, with strong net growth totalling about 35,000 new users. Between spring and summer 2020 alone, our Helsana Coach app posted nearly 14,000 new users. This underscores our position as a reliable health partner that advises and supports its customers in all stages of life.
A gratifying premium situation
Our premium income broke through the CHF 7 billion mark for the first time (2020: CHF 7.1 billion, 2019: CHF 6.7 billion). Driven by ongoing strong client growth, this marks the achievement of another significant milestone for Helsana.
The vast majority of Helsana customers benefited from lower premiums for basic insurance last year, for the first time since the introduction of the Health Insurance Act in 1996. Developments in 2020 demonstrate that this was not a one-time event. Rather, they reflect our efforts to curb the growth in health costs and, therefore, premium rises. The cost trend in compulsory health insurance has been moderate in recent years – even though the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unusual development of service costs in the 2020 reporting year.
The welfare and health of our employees, and optimal medical care of our customers, have always been our top priority.
Another robust underwriting result
TIn 2020, the underwriting result for the Helsana Group amounted to CHF 44 million (2019: CHF 97 million). The combined ratio rose to 99.4 per cent compared with the previous year (2019: 98.6 per cent).
Driven by the individual business, the combined ratio in the area of basic insurance (Federal Health Insurance Act, KVG) increased from 98.1 per cent (2019) to 99.8 per cent in comparison to the previous year. The supplementary insurance business (Federal Insurance Contract Act, VVG) also re-mained profitable overall in 2020; the combined ratio was reduced to 98.4 per cent through continuous improvements in the business unit and active benefits cost management (2019: 99.8 per cent).
The combined ratio for 2020 also declined in the accident insurance business (Federal Acci-dent Insurance Act, UVG) compared with the previous year by 1.8 percentage points to 96.4 per cent (2019: 98.2 per cent).
Compared to the previous year, the combined ratio in the Swiss Red Cross at the height of the pandemic has increased significantly.
Investment performance impacted by high volatility
The international capital markets were badly shaken by the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, but they recovered well over the course of a very volatile year. As at the end of 2020, the performance was positive at +2.19 per cent, but it fell short of the excellent performance of the year before (2019: +9.04 per cent).
As usual, all companies in the Helsana Group clearly exceed the legal solvency requirements. Our equity capital increased further, totalling CHF 2,906 billion at the end of 2020 (2019: CHF 2,755 billion). This reinforces our solid financial foundation, and is something policyholders can rely on in the new year.
Political demands to reduce reserves amid COVID-19
The pandemic’s existential impact on the national economy led some political voices in 2020 to call for a reduction in, and non-earmarked use of, reserves. For instance, to assist households by making extraordinary reimbursements to premium payers. The cantons meanwhile began to call on health insurers to show solidarity by making a contribution from their reserves to compensate for hospitals’ financial deficits incurred as a result of the pandemic.
Reserves in basic insurance fundamentally serve to ensure a health insurer’s long-term solvency. Helsana prefers to use available funds to ensure free premiums.
When calculating premiums, we have always taken our reserves into account as far as possible. We also reflect a component of our investment income in our premiums to help keep premium development as moderate as possible.
Offering support and taking responsibility as an advisor – and participating as an investor
At the beginning of 2020, we reported net growth of around 120,000 insured persons. This success was confirmed when we saw additional growth of 79,000 net policyholders for 2021. This was driven by our convincing offering, strong sales and competent customer service – attributes that performed perfectly even in the 2020 crisis period.
Net customer growth per 2021
We want to use our new corporate strategy 2020+ to invest in start-ups and innovation in order to help shape the Swiss healthcare system and further develop our core business. To this end, we founded HealthInvest AG in the second half of the year, appointing a Board of Directors with Dr. Claudine Blaser Egger as its President. This new Helsana Group subsidiary began operating at the beginning of 2021.
Also emphasized by our new corporate strategy is the continued expansion of our advisory services. As a reliable healthcare partner, we provide our customers with individual advice and support for all situations in life. We recognise a great need for more information and advice on health issues. This is why we launched our health advice service in autumn 2020. It is available free of charge to anyone with Helsana supplementary insurance who raises a health concern to us. For urgent medical concerns, a family doctor or the competent Medi 24 medical advice hotline is still the correct point of contact. Our health advice service complements such medical advice and treatment.
Our strategic partnership with the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) is another highly visible initiative. We were able to offer support at Bern’s COVID-19 test centre at short notice during the peak of the pandemic. We did so in a way quickly and in a straightforward manner. We also supported the Corona Immunitas research project – a university network study that investigates the spread of the Sars-Cov-2 virus and which will produce valuable data on the pandemic’s development and its spread in the Swiss population.