“How much_ you have to be joking!”

The subsidised Swiss healthcare can be accessed by foreigners only after they become official residents and join a scheme for health insurance in Switzerland. A good overview is provided here at Comparis.ch

The Swiss healthcare system is both of a high quality and complicated for a first-time user. You have basic, semi and full private options to navigate and a lot more as you choose your healthcare insurance.

 This post explains who needs health insurance in Switzerland, health insurance costs, and how to take out Swiss health insurance.

The healthcare system and health insurance for those in Zurich Switzerland

Let us look beyond the healthcare advertisements you see everywhere, or the known fact that it is one of the best in Europe according to various consumer indexes.

The Swiss health system is also one of the costliest in the world and unlike many other European countries is not subject to a form of national social security payment scheme. Instead it is administered by local health authorities in each canton. this means services and prices can vary according to the canton you live even with the same insurer. 

Everyone living in Zurich, Switzerland (a few exceptions are known) needs to take out a health insurance policy within three months of moving to the country.

Exceptions include:

  • Pensioners who draw a pension exclusively in an EU or EFTA state
  • Students who are temporarily resident in Switzerland and have comparable insurance
  • Diplomatic staff or staff of other listed international organisations ( FIFA – check )

To access the local or Swiss national healthcare system, you will need to pay monthly health insurance premiums and an “excess” or part of the cost of your medical treatment in Switzerland. This can extend to post treatment care and prescribed drugs. 

What happens if I am not covered by health insurance in Switzerland?

You are in trouble or you are very rich and are able to access healthcare as a “pay as you go” patient. 

Time passes quickly when you arrive in Zurich, so failing to purchase health insurance in Zurich by the three month deadline means your local cantonal authorities will sign you up to a plan, expect the premiums to be higher and without it do not expect to access Swiss health services other than emergency treatment except as a “cash or credit card” payer. 

What is covered by Swiss public health insurance?

The basic state health insurance package covers between 80-90% of medical costs (small exclusion of c. CHF 300 of treatment costs each year applies). There is a small cost for hospital stays to be considered as well unlike France, Spain or the UK. 

The law determines the coverage and this is identical across all healthcare insurance providers, including:

  • Doctors and medical specialists – general check-ups and treatment is covered, including some forms of physiotherapy and specialist treatments are often excluded
  • Maternity care – pregnancy services such as antenatal classes, childbirth expenses and abortion are covered
  • Sexual health – covers gynaecological screening examinations
  • Cancer screenings – covers mammograms and colon cancer screenings for those aged over 50
  • Hospital visits – inpatient, outpatient and emergency treatment is covered
  • Medication – covers between 80% to 90% of doctor’s prescriptions
  • Medical aids and devices – you can claim a certain amount towards things such as bandages, inhalers or incontinence devices
  • Medical transport and rescue – covers 50% of costs if you need specialist emergency transport or rescue

Applying for health insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, it is your responsibility to arrange your own health insurance and yes it is a minefield. Many people gamble on higher premiums because they know they save on prescriptions, other a high excess and try not to be ill. In reality nearly all use a comparison website to work out the costs – Comparis.ch

Do not sign-up as a foreigners if you have yet to arrive in Zurich or Switzerland, especially if you have yet to apply for your local Swiss residence permit or have not registered with the local commune – Gemeinde ( especially if an EU citizen moving to Zurich or Switzerland).

Registration with a Swiss healthcare provider

Using Comparis or a company recommended by your employer will help, even if you like to shop around for weeks trying to save CHF5.00 per month.

Choose a provider that best suits your needs, circumstances and which you had a chat with to a colleague or a friend. There have been many changes in healthcare providers in recent years and some are known to be “a problem” when you try to get your refund of medical payments back or worse.

When you apply you usually have to provide proof of residence and details of your address to take out a policy.

In some cases they will ask you to undergo a medical, if you smoke pot, do not worry, you will not be reported back to your employer. you may have to pay a little more in your premium as a risk. 

Once you have registered with a health insurance company, coverage will be backdated to the day you were liable for compulsory Swiss health insurance. This means the faster you do this, the faster you avoid a triple Premium payment for the first three months if you leave it until the last moment. 

Policies can be structured as single or a group schedule of policies for additional family members, including partners, spouses and children. It seems a little messy and it can be as you work out what is best overall. 

Choosing a Swiss health insurance provider

Choosing one first time is easy, changing it is another matter. Like many contractual arrangements in Switzerland, if you wish to change  health insurance companies, you have to give notice.

This is usually three-months notice before the end of June or the end of December, providing you’re on a package where you pay the standard CHF 300 excess AND your premiums are all up to date. It is important you read the small print of the contract and check this when you choose your local Zurich or Swiss healthcare provider. 

Some of the largest health insurance companies in Switzerland include:

  • Allianz Care
  • Generali
  • Helsana

To check your likely costs on a Swiss government website Priminfo ( Premium Calculator)

Additional Healthcare Options and Add-Ons

All healthcare options are billable, therefore if you want specialist cover or treatments, there is a provider willing to make a menu offer of basic and premium services.

These can include:

  • Specialist treatments from pain management physiotherapy to Reiki or Cranial sacral therapy (CST)
  • Private healthcare services and benefits during hospital stays (private room, free choice of doctor, choice of hospital)
  • Eyecare and laser treatments
  • Cancer treatments and spa wellness  

The costs will be determined by your risk profile, your choices and your location (Zurich in comparison with some cantons can be 30-50% more expensive than others).

It is likely you will have to pay medical fees upfront and then claim reimbursements from the insurer by sending them copies of invoices and receipts.

Hopefully this overview helps, unlike many other websites, we do not have any affiliated link or promotion, we simply ask you to seek out a Zürich Networking Group member or visit the directory to find a trusted advisor.


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