Health insurance

Health insurance system in Switzerland

According to the Health Insurance Act (Krankenversicherungsgesetz - KVG) every person living in Switzerland is obliged to take out a basic health insurance policy (Grundversicherung).

Any person taking up residence in Switzerland has to take out health insurance within 3 months of their arrival. In several situations, you will be asked for proof you are insured. If you’re employed in Switzerland for less than 3 months and you can’t submit proof of insurance from your home country that covers you, it is necessary to get Swiss insurance.

In some cases, you may be exempted from taking out health insurance in Switzerland, for example:

  • if you have an obligatory health insurance scheme in your home country that covers the same medical cost as the basic insurance scheme during your stay in Switzerland.
  • if you’re in Switzerland due to an exchange or other international program, (i.e. for students, interns and scientists). In this case, your institution or employer has to guarantee that all your medical costs during your stay in Switzerland are reimbursed and has to pay all expenses not covered by an insurance scheme.
  • if you’ve been sent to Switzerland for a limited time by a foreign company.
  • if you’re a diplomat or employed by an international organization.

How to get basic health insurance

Basic sickness insurance is provided by many insurance companies – you are free to choose. Basic benefits are identical across all providers, but premiums and add-ons can vary considerably, so shop around and find the provider that offers the service you are looking for.

Note that in Switzerland, sickness insurance will normally not be arranged by your employer. You have the responsibility of contacting providers and arranging the insurance yourself. Only if your employer has an agreement with a specific insurer and pays part of your premiums (which rarely happens), will you be forced to choose a specific provider.

Health insurance premiums in Switzerland are not dependent on income, but are calculated based on your personal risk profile. However, the Swiss Confederation subsidizes premiums for low-income individuals/families. You can calculate your premium here  (German).

Swiss insurance schemes only cover individuals, not families as in some other European social security schemes. You will therefore have to insure each household member separately, including children.

There are no restrictions on changing insurance companies, although the cancellation period for basic insurance is 3 months. You should cancel towards the end of the calender year, though in some cases you can cancel in the middle of the year. Before leaving Switzerland, you should cancel your insurance with at least one month’s notice.

Benefits of the basic insurance scheme

Compulsory sickness insurance covers medical services in connection with sickness, accidents (if not covered by an accident insurance policy) and maternity. The insurance policy covers in- and out-patient medical treatment, and medication prescribed by a doctor.

If you only have a compulsory basic insurance scheme, you are obliged to make a contribution towards your total annual medical cost, up to a certain limit per year. This ‘franchise’ is calculated as a percentage of your total annual medical costs and capped at a yearly limit. By choosing to pay a higher yearly franchise, you can lower your monthly insurance premiums (i.e. you are betting on not getting ill much). Some insurance companies also lower your monthly premiums if you haven’t incurred any costs for a specific period.

As a rule, dental treatment is not covered under the basic insurance scheme. If you are not covered for dental treatment but want to be, you need additional dental insurance (Zahnarztversicherung / assurance dentaire). This is offered by many companies and it is likely that the same company who provides health cover will be able to propose a policy.

Additional insurance

More than 80% of the Swiss population chose to top-up their insurance cover. This is usually in order to have more comfortable accommodation during a hospital stay or a wider choice of treatments. In contrast to basic insurance, insurers may refuse applicants for additional insurance or only accept them subject to certain conditions. Private medical and additional dental cover may only become effective after a three-month qualifying period.

Further reading

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