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High Quality, High Costs: Health Insurance in Switzerland

Health and well-being are two topics that will be at the front of your mind even before you move abroad. The Swiss health insurance system can be a bit daunting for those who are not familiar with it, so we have created a guide to give you an overview of how to stay healthy in Switzerland.
Health insurance is compulsory for everyone living in Switzerland and, unfortunately, it’s quite pricey.

At a Glance:

  • Everybody who lives in Switzerland for a period of three months or longer must contribute towards a basic health insurance policy.
  • Despite the fact that premiums are already fairly high, patients must also pay towards any treatment they receive through an excess and retention fee.
  • Basic health insurance policies don’t cover dental or optometry checkups, so expats may want to consider purchasing complementary insurance policies to build on their basic premium.

 

The healthcare system in Switzerland is not funded by taxes: instead it is paid for by the residents through health insurance premiums. Healthcare in Switzerland is regulated by the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance, which ensures that policies are similar across the whole country.

Insurance providers must offer basic health insurance policies to everyone in Switzerland, no matter their age or pre-existing health conditions. They cannot, by law, make a profit from basic policies, but can on policies providing extra benefits.  

The Swiss healthcare system aims to reduce medical costs across the country through promoting general health and individual responsibility. This push seems to be paying off as Swiss men have the world’s longest life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization life expectancy statistics, men in Switzerland can expect to live to the age of 81.3 years, a huge jump above the world average of 69.1 years. Swiss women aren’t far behind, placing sixth in the world with an average life expectancy of 85.3 years.

Do I Need Health Insurance in Switzerland?

The answer to this question is simple — yes, you do need to purchase health insurance. Everybody who lives in Switzerland for more than three months must contribute towards a health insurance policy.

If you are a civil servant or a member of an embassy, you and your family are, however, exempt from compulsory health insurance. You need to contact your cantonal health authority and request an exemption in this case. More information on how to do this can usually be found on your local canton's official website.

What Am I Paying For?

While everyone in Switzerland is required to contribute towards a Swiss health insurance policy, the law only requires you to have a basic policy. A basic health insurance policy in Switzerland normally costs anything between 6% and 12% of a Swiss resident’s personal income, but monthly premiums vary. If a premium is higher than 8% of the resident’s income, the government subsidizes any additional premium of a basic policy.

The basic health insurance policy normally covers the following:

  • emergency treatment
  • out-patient treatment by officially recognized doctors
  • contribution towards emergency transportation or rescue costs
  • prescription medication
  • maternity checkups, prenatal classes, and delivery costs
  • abortions and gynecological checkups
  • vaccinations
  • necessary rehabilitation after surgery or an accident

Basic health insurance policies also have what is known as an excess fee, meaning the insured must pay part of the cost of any medical treatment they receive. This excess can vary slightly depending on your insurance provider and your canton, but can be anything from 300 CHF up to 2500 CHF. Patients are also required to pay a retention — 10% of any costs exceeding this excess. This amount is limited to 700 CHF a year for adults and 350 CHF a year for children. These charges do not apply to pregnancy-related checkups, but for more information on prenatal care, please see our article on Giving Birth in Switzerland.

There are some ways to reduce the cost of your insurance premium. You can:

  • choose a policy with a restricted doctor or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO);
  • choose a TelMed policy (contacting a medical call center before going to the doctor);
  • increase your excess fee;
  • apply for financial support if you have a modest income (eligibility determined by individual cantons).

When Basic Just Isn’t Enough…

When researching health insurance policies in Switzerland, it is important to think about any additional benefits you might require. Your basic insurance policy can be supplemented by private insurance policies that will cover the costs of some additional treatment categories, or improve the standard of your room, should you end up in hospital.

One thing definitely worth considering before you move to Switzerland is that basic health insurance policies do not cover routine dental checkups or treatments. You’ll need a complementary private health insurance add-on to cover this. Supplementary health insurance premiums can also cover glasses and contact lenses, as well as orthodontic treatments.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.