Switzerland’s healthcare system differs slightly from that of other European countries. It is neither tax-based nor partly financed by employer contributions. Every person coming to live in Switzerland is obligated to contact a public or private health insurance provider within three months of arrival.
Some exceptions are granted, notably to foreigners staying in Switzerland for less than three months who are otherwise adequately covered, e.g. through private policies, travel insurance, or company healthcare plans. People whose main country of residence is an EU or another EFTA state may also be exempt from compulsory Swiss health insurance under specific circumstances.
The competence to grant an exemption lies with the relevant cantonal authorities. A PDF list with contact details of all cantonal health insurance authorities can be found on the Federal Office of Public Health website.
No public health insurance provider can refuse an applicant, regardless of factors such as pre-existing health conditions and chronic illnesses. A list of all registered health insurance providers is available on the website of the Federal Health Agency.
The responsibility to acquire health insurance cover and pay the required premium lies solely with the individual and not with the employer. There are various tariffs and rates to meet individual needs, but every public health insurance provider must offer a basic package which complies with national standards.
In addition to compulsory medical insurance, there is an optional “daily benefits insurance”, which ensures continued sick pay in case of prolonged periods of absence from work due to illness.
Read on in our in-depth article on health insurance in Switzerland for more details on policies, requirements, costs, etc.
In Switzerland, patients can choose their doctor freely. They have direct access to specialists without prior consultation of a family doctor or general practitioner. Outpatients can see a private doctor or visit a walk-in clinic at a public or private hospital.
Any treatments which are not covered by the patient’s health insurance plan must be clearly pointed out as such to the patient. In general, patients with basic health insurance cover are expected to contribute 20 CHF per day towards the cost of a hospital stay and pay 10% of the price of prescription drugs.
General healthcare standards in Switzerland are very high. This is reflected in an above average life expectancy among the Swiss population. Both public and private hospitals meet and exceed international healthcare standards. As in most countries, private hospitals tend to specialize in certain treatments. The website Swiss Private Hospitals might be useful if you are looking for specialist treatment in your area.
You can also find a list of selected hospitals as well as more detailed information on Swiss doctors, hospitals, and dentists in our respective article.
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