What is different about health insurance in Switzerland?
Every country has different laws pertaining to health insurance and Switzerland is no exception. Here, it is mandatory to take out private health insurance yourself. There are some exceptions, however. For instance, students who are only in Switzerland part-time may keep their home country insurance. The same is true for pensioners who receive their pension in an EU or EFTA state. The following is a guide to all you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland.
When, how and where?
You must take out health insurance within three months of moving to Switzerland. You are, however, insured from your first day in the country, as it is illegal to be without an insurance. You can choose from any of the approved health insurance providers; they are obliged to provide you with basic insurance. It is worth comparing providers and they will all send you quotes free of charge.
Premiums, deductibles and retention fees
In some countries, your premium depends on your income. Not so in Switzerland – the premiums are based on your age, the canton you live in and the excess level (deductibles) you choose. There is also the possibility of choosing an insurance where you are obliged to visit your GP before seeing a specialist. This, too, can decrease your premium.
Deductibles (Franchise): This is a set amount of money you must pay before your health insurance covers the rest of the costs and is usually between 300 and 2500 CHF. You can choose how high the deductibles are; the higher the deductibles, the lower your premium. This can be well worthwhile if you do not visit the doctor often. Children up to the age of 18 do not have any deductibles.
Your health insurance will cover all costs over the deductibles barring 10% of the total costs which is the retention fee. This fee is set at 10% and cannot be changed. The rest (90%) is covered by the insurance with some exceptions such as a small part of your daily hospital stay costs. Again, there are a few exceptions; children up to the age of 18 and women who are hospitalised for maternity are exempt from paying any hospital costs. If you buy an original preparation without a medical reason even though a generic would have been available, you have to pay a retention of 20 %. If the price difference between the original and the generic product is less than 20 %, the retention stays at 10 %. This all sounds like you will be driven to financial ruin, but there is a silver lining: you will never have to pay over 700 CHF a year and the upper limit for children is set at 350 CHF.
Basic insurance and supplementary insurance
In Switzerland, basic insurance is called compulsory health insurance and, as the name would imply, is compulsory. This basic insurance covers all treatment costs for illness. However, there are some costs such as those for dental treatment that are beyond the coverage range of basic insurance. You have the option of either paying for these treatments on your own or taking out a supplementary insurance. However, to be able to take out supplementary insurance, you will have to submit medical certificates and the insurance provider may decide to reject your application. In addition, the premiums are quite high.
Important: be prepared
Even with all the preventive care in the world, it is not possible to avoid illness altogether. Put some money aside so that you can pay for the deductible and retention fees should you need expensive treatment. Although the insurance covers some treatments such as pregnancy and accidents that occur outside the workplace, you should still be prepared. It is mandatory for employers to take out accident insurance for accidents outside of work if you are employed for at least 8 hours per week by them.
Health insurance is just one of the many things you have to sort out when moving to Switzerland. Take a look at our checklist for moving to Switzerland to get a good overview of what you need to do and read our blog Swiss German for Beginners. We publish articles on many aspects of living in Switzerland such as information on phones and television contracts. Of course, it is important to learn Swiss German if you want to integrate fully.