What you absolutely need to know about insurance in Switzerland is that some forms of insurance are compulsory, therefore legally required for everyone living in Switzerland. All insurance companies are obligated to insure Swiss residents, and all offer exactly the same basic benefits.
The mandatory insurances that you need to have as soon as you set foot in Switzerland are:
✓ Basic health insurance
✓ Accident insurance
✓ Motor vehicle insurance for vehicle owners
✓ Buildings liability insurance for homeowners
You have some time to decide
While proof of basic health insurance is going to be required by authorities in up to 3 months after your arrival, accident insurance and motor vehicle insurance depend heavily on your (or your partner's) personal situation.
As such, the best thing you can do is speak to an insurance adviser to get clarity on how to proceed.
But first, you have to understand what all insurances in Switzerland include.
1. Mandatory types of insurance, explained
1.1 Basic health insurance
The basic health insurance covers treatment costs for sickness, accidents and maternity services. This includes recognised medicines, laboratory tests, transportation and prevention.
Important! As a new resident, you have to sign up for basic health insurance within the first three months of moving to Switzerland. It is mandatory even if you don't need any type of treatment and even if you are staying for less than three months. The only exception is the case where you have equivalent coverage under a foreign insurance scheme.
If you think about it, it makes sense to get the basic health insurance at the soonest: no matter what happens, you know it won't cost you a fortune to get treated.
Please note: dental treatment is not covered by basic health insurance but can be covered under supplementary health insurance policies.More on health insurance
1.2 Accident insurance
When it comes to accident insurance, it depends on your work situation.
If you are employed in Switzerland, the cost of accident insurance for occupational and non-occupational accidents will be paid in full or in part by your employer.
If you have an unemployed partner or a child, they will not be covered by your accident insurance. Instead, they are required by law to take out accident cover under their basic health insurance.
1.3 Motor vehicle insurance (for vehicle owners)
If you are a car owner, let us wish you many safe roads ahead.
Upon arriving in Switzerland, you must obtain Swiss license plates for your vehicle from the Swiss vehicle authorities. And for that, you will need to provide confirmation of third-party vehicle liability insurance. This covers damage incurred to third parties and is available from most Swiss insurance companies.
1.4 Buildings liability insurance (for home owners)
As a home owner, your responsibilities include getting an insurance that covers potential damage that can happen to buildings: fire, explosions and natural disasters. It's not a big sum, and you don't have to worry about any such hazards.
2. Optional forms of insurance in Switzerland
Now that you got through the most important stuff, it's time to understand which are the other forms of insurance coverage. They can be broadly divided into essential and recommended. The essential coverage is not legally required, however almost every adult in Switzerland holds these policies and you can enjoy significant benefits if you have it.
2.1 Essential insurances
The essential coverage is not legally required, but almost every adult in Switzerland takes out these policies. In other words, in Switzerland it is strongly recommended that you get them.
Third-party liability insurance
We don't walk around thinking about damaging other people's goods. However, accidents can still happen - think about domestic accidents when you live in a rented apartment. That's why a third-party liability insurance, although not mandatory, is very frequent among Swiss people. You can get this kind of insurance either as an individual or as a partner/family policy.
Why you should get it: Because you don't want any headaches when moving out of your apartment, for example if you are required to pay for repairs or damage to the property (to use just one example).
You may also need it when signing a tenancy agreement, where the tenant asks you to provide an insurance certificate confirming that you have third-party liability insurance (especially in the French-speaking region of Switzerland). Your policy must be issued by a Swiss-based insurance company, so please do not rely on contracts from your home country.
As soon as you sign with a Swiss insurance company, you can get a letter of proof. You will need this letter at the latest one week before the planned date of your accommodation handover. You can also defer the start date of your policy to begin on the day of your arrival or at your property handover.
Household contents policy
Some people choose to be extra careful with house belongings - after all, they're hard-earned assets.
If this is your case, know that household contents policies cover theft, loss or damage to furniture or other furnishings, as well as the loss of personal belongings. The amount of the premiums will depend on the cover provided and the value of the household contents.
You can take out household contents insurance in combination with third-party liability or building insurance.
2.2 Recommended insurances to consider
These are optional insurances you can live without in Switzerland, but there are several benefits if you get them.
Legal expenses insurance
It covers the financial risks associated with legal disputes. Sometimes this is already provided under health insurance or another insurance policy.
Why should you get it: If you get involved in a legal dispute of any kind, costs can spiral. This coverage means you can confidently enter into legal disputes without worrying about the costs.
Life insurance policies offer a wide range of options and will have either a savings or an investment component. However, they can also be designed to provide risk insurance or a retirement pension.
Why you should get it: It's an essential part of long-term planning, and especially relevant for those of us with partners and/or children.
Motor vehicle insurance (comprehensive)
In addition to mandatory third-party liability motor insurance, semi-comprehensive and fully comprehensive cover is also available. Semi-comprehensive insurance typically covers theft and damage caused by vandalism, fire, hail, storms and collisions with animals. Comprehensive insurance covers all other damage sustained by your own vehicle.
Why you should get it: It makes particular sense where passengers are not covered by accident insurance, for example visitors from abroad.
Rental security deposit insurance
Rental security deposit insurance is an advantageous alternative to the classical security deposit account (rental deposit account) offered by banks:
Why you should get it: You pay affordable annual premiums instead of a large amount into a tenant's deposit account, thus enjoying greater security and flexibility. Most importantly, you don't have to put down two or three months of rent in a single lump-sum, meaning you can do other things with that money.
Too much information?
If you're feeling slightly overwhelmed by all these details, you're not alone. There's a lot to take in and, as a newcomer to Switzerland, you will have several questions about your own particular situation.
Make sure you start life in Switzerland right, with the proper support
Our insurance partner, Helvetia is ready to answer any and all questions you might have regarding your insurance needs. Schedule a free, non-binding consultation with a Helvetia English - speaking adviser who specialises on the insurance needs of international professionals in Switzerland.Get free consultation