Most newspapers view Sunday's vote result as a slap in the face for the centre-left which proposed the health reform, including a single health insurance company.
More than 70 per cent of voters rejected the initiative. But editorialists say the result should not be seen as support for the current situation, and argue efforts are needed to cut rising costs.
The prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper sums it up under the headline: "Reason instead of adventurous experiment". It considers the result a heavy defeat for all those who want to do away with the per-capita funding system for premiums.
"A centralised system, with state intervention and premiums based on income and wealth, stands no chance."
It adds that it is the third time since 1994 that voters have thrown out a proposal by the centre-left to radically change the funding scheme.
The tabloid Blick newspaper blames the failure on the proponents' strategy, arguing their proposals were too confusing and too complex.
"Voters don't want a radical health policy. But the problems are far from solved." It agrees with Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin that all players in the health sector, including the insurance companies, have to reconsider part of their policy and try to regain the confidence of their clients.
The defeat for the supporters of a single health system was heavier than expected, says the Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. But it insists that reforms of the health system are necessary. It calls on politicians to prove that they are serious about changes and cost-cutting measures.
"Premiums are set to rise further if no way is found to rein in increasing expenditure. Otherwise it is inevitable to reduce the list of health services paid by insurers, proposed by the rightwing People's Party. In other words: a two-tier system and limited offers."
For its part, the Basler Zeitung says the current situation shows that reforms are needed but that the proposal by the centre-left was too risky.
"The real problems of an ageing society could not be solved. But those who want to question the compromise solution of the 1994 health law, including per-capita premiums and a wide-ranging basic insurance coverage, fuel the ambitions of those, not only on the political right, who want to do away with the principle of solidarity."
Newspapers in the French-speaking part of Switzerland highlight the financial burden on the middle classes.
"The vote paves the way for cost-cutting reforms via stronger competition in the health sector," says the Geneva-based Le Temps.
"It's urgent. The financial burden of premiums for the middle class has become unbearable."
It adds that it won't be easy, because there are strong lobbies fighting their corners.
"Competition should focus on providers of quality service and not on health insurance companies trying to win young and healthy clients."
The 24heures newspaper from Lausanne says the result is a fiasco for the left, but warns that it doesn't mean that voters are happy with the current situation, at least not in the French-speaking region of Switzerland.
"The Swiss have to consider seriously their options. The middle class can't be asked to pay cash for a luxury system."
The press in the Italian-speaking part of the country highlights two opposing aspects. La Regione warns that voters' rejection should not be taken as a "no to a more rational, transparent and fair health system".
It argues that the opponents had much more financial means at their disposal in the run-up to Sunday's vote.
Corriere del Ticino, for its part, sees the outcome of the ballot as "approval of the current funding scheme of the insurance system".
swissinfo, Urs Geiser
Official vote results:
Cantons: all voted against except French-speaking Jura and Neuchâtel.
Voter turnout: 45.5%
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