Expat health services in Switzerland What expats need to know about healthcare in Switzerland

Healthcare in Switzerland is renowned the world over, but what provisions have been made to accommodate expatriates into this illustrious system?

As a leading provider of individual private medical insurance for expatriates, we at Cigna Global are all too aware of the challenges expats face when adapting to life in a new country. With so many changes to factor in, it can be a shock to the system, in particular, adapting to a new foreign healthcare system.

Thankfully, the standard of medical care in Switzerland is up there with the best in the world. With their cutting edge medical facilities, vast network of highly qualified medical professionals, and no waiting lists, it's easy to see why the Swiss standard is regarded so highly.

Switzerland's robust financial infrastructure and lack of free state provided health insurance has led to a booming private health insurance market. Swiss locals can expect to pay around 10% of their average salary towards a health insurance premium; but what of the country's 1.65m expats?

Unlike most other European countries, the healthcare system in Switzerland isn't tax based, or financed by employers. Each individual is required to make contributions to a health insurance scheme of their choosing. Approved schemes are administered by Switzerland's individual cantons, and everyone living in Switzerland is legally required to have basic health and accident insurance.

Those living in Switzerland for three months or less may be exempt from this, provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), a suitable health insurance policy, or travel insurance. The requirements differ in each canton of Switzerland, so it's always best to check.

However, after three months, every individual is required to have cover with an approved insurer (even babies!).

A basic level of cover can be obtained from local Swiss medical insurance policies. These policies are aimed at locals, providing things like emergency care, sickness, and maternity care. The cover is universal across all Swiss cantons, and is considered as a base level of health insurance.

However, some expats choose to opt for a higher level of cover, one specifically designed for expatriates such as those available from Cigna Global.

Individual private medical insurance (Ipmi) policies can often be advantageous to expats, by comparison to local policies, as many of the benefits within these policies have been tailored specifically to suit expatriates.

Full details of what is, and what is not covered will be specified by your health insurance provider. It is important for expats to check with their local authorities in their canton of residence for full requirements and conditions in that area, as not all suppliers, including Cigna Global, can guarantee full coverage in all areas.

We at Cigna Global, for example, boast such benefits as:

  • High Policy Limits – As standard, policies come with benefits such as, up to $3,000,000 USD of care per period of cover (Platinum level policies), covering things like surgeon fees, consultation fees, medical fees and hospital accommodation.  
  • Cancer Care – Full Cancer Care is a standard benefit with all Cigna Global Policies.  
  • Fully Medically Underwritten – All Cigna Global policies are fully medically underwritten with a view to providing full clarity and transparency on the implications of medical conditions.  
  • Flexibility – 3 levels of cover to choose from, with five optional additional benefits, including outpatient care, medical evacuation, and vision & dental care.

Once you've secured an expatriate health insurance policy that you're happy with, it's worth remembering a few key points that will make your healthcare experience a more enjoyable one, in the event of course that you need to use it.

Visiting a doctor in Switzerland is generally a straightforward process. You'll be free to choose the GP of your choice (as some people go on recommendations), provided your insurer doesn't place any restrictions on this. Your embassy or consulate may be able to recommend a doctor who speaks your native language. You'll need to book your appointment beforehand and give 24 hours' notice if you need to cancel otherwise you'll be charged. Take your insurance card when you visit the doctor.

Unless it's an emergency, hospital admission comes only as a result of a referral by your doctor. The hospital will be in your local canton, and you should bring proof of your valid insurance policy for ease of treatment.

The settlement of your medical bills will differ depending on your health insurance provider. For example, Cigna Global offer direct billing with the medical facility, cutting out the middle man and ensuring the patient isn't left out of pocket. Those without adequate health insurance can be asked to pay a deposit of up to CHF 10,000, so it's well worth ensuring you have the right level of cover to meet your needs.

Author: Jonathan Conelly

Experienced journalist now specializing in the health insurance industry

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