Your guide to health insurance in Switzerland
Planning to start a new chapter in Europe? Centrally-located, mountainous Switzerland is a fantastic choice. It is bordered by France and Italy, as well as a handful of other European countries. Officially known as the Swiss Confederation, the nation is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, each with its own constitution, legislative, and executive bodies.
Find your home among a population made up of an eclectic mix of four principal language communities: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Not to be missed is Switzerland's reputation as one of the richest countries in the world with several of its cities headquarters to prominent international organizations.
Experience modern cities, a unique collaboration of Europe’s great cultures, and the best ski resorts and alpine activities the picturesque Alps can provide. This guide offers an overview of the healthcare system in Switzerland and how to secure health insurance as an expat there.
Public healthcare in Switzerland
World-renowned for quality and efficient healthcare services, there is an extensive network of hospitals and doctors in Switzerland. Waiting lists are rare and medical facilities are top of the line. Here, it's easy to tell that healthcare has always been high on the public agenda.
The federal government provides oversight of the system, and the individual cantons are responsible for the regulation and financing of the public delivery system. The system's operating costs are split between the cantons and the health insurers. Most inpatient treatment is provided by accredited cantonal or regional public hospitals that are entitled to reimbursement under the compulsory insurance system. Besides a wealth of first-class medical facilities, the Swiss enjoy one of the world’s lowest patient-to-doctor ratios (280:1) supported by a team of well-trained nurses to doctors.
Private healthcare in Switzerland
Private hospitals do not receive any financial subsidies but are funded solely by payments made by the health insurance companies and patients. Doctors in independent practice provide most ambulatory primary health care. Medical practitioners are paid on a fee-for-service schedule negotiated between insurers and providers or their organizations at the canton level.
Compulsory health insurance in Switzerland
Naturally, its outstanding healthcare system comes at a cost. There are virtually no uninsured persons in Switzerland. Under the 1996 Health Insurance Law, everyone living in the country is mandated to purchase basic health insurance from competing non-profit health funds.
As an expat, you must obtain health coverage within the first three months upon your arrival in Switzerland. Also, babies must be insured within three months of birth. Below, we will explore what is included in a basic health insurance package and how much it costs.
Basic insurance package
Insurance is offered on an individual basis in Switzerland. Simply put, it does not extend to your dependents nor is it sponsored by your employer. Citizens are free to purchase their basic package from any authorized insurance company that is registered with the Caisse-maladie or Krankenkasse, and is approved by the Federal Act, which governs healthcare policy.
The basic insurance package covers most general physician (GP) and specialist services, certain pharmaceuticals, and some preventative measures. Over a third of all Swiss pharmaceuticals are listed to be reimbursed by basic insurance, subject to a 10% co-payment. All other drugs are either paid for in full by patients, or by supplementary insurers if applicable. The insurance companies providing this plan vary in size from a couple of thousand members to well over a million.
Paying for your coverage
Known as the 'franchise', each person residing in Switzerland must pay an annual deductible for their health insurance policy. Currently, an adult pays CHF $300 to CHF $2,500 for their franchise, and children under the age of 18 are exempt from paying. This cost will cover part of your medical treatment. In addition, the more franchise you pay, the lower your monthly premiums. Take note that health insurance premiums here are not dependent on income, but are calculated based on personal risk profile.
Different insurance company's health plans cannot compete through benefit packages, but rather through comparative premiums and deductible pricing. These prices may vary considerably between cantons, as they are community-rated. The insurers will calculate their premiums based on estimates of health care expenditure specific to a canton or sub-region within.
Private health insurance in Switzerland
Many Swiss residents opt for add-on benefits that are not covered by the basic compulsory insurance package. Dental treatment, private ward hospitalization, and medical options available outside their canton are several common ones.
The key difference between mandatory and private insurance is that the latter is for-profit. Often, local insurers have a non-profit branch offering mandatory public insurance, and a separate for-profit branch offering private insurance.
Accessing the Swiss healthcare system
Accessing top medical facilities and healthcare in the world certainly doesn't come cheap. Even emergency care is not available for free in Switzerland. You'll have to pay up or provide proof of your insurance status.
Here's how the process will go for a healthcare visit. After visiting a hospital or doctor, you will receive a bill which you should pay within a 30-day period. Next, send a copy to your insurer who will reimburse you based on the percentage covered by your insurance scheme. Noting that hospitals will require a substantial deposit upon your admittance into a health facility if you are not an official resident in Switzerland and don’t have sufficient health insurance.
Whilst traveling or working in Switzerland, it's best to secure an international health insurance plan for you and your family. Planning to partake in outdoor activities, such as climbing or skiing during your time here? In that case, having the right insurance is all the more crucial.
Contact Pacific Prime for your health insurance needs
From travel insurance and international health insurance to family insurance, Pacific Prime offers a wide range of policies to meet your needs and budget. If you're traveling to other countries besides Switzerland, check out our comprehensive guides to health insurance by country.
Ready to visit or start a new life in Switzerland? Get a free quote today with our online quotation tool! Consult our team of expert insurance advisors for a free plan comparison and impartial advice.