In Switzerland, we do not have a government sponsored social insurance system in charge of people's health. Instead, the Swiss health care system is subsidized by the cantons, providing basic coverage to all residents of Switzerland.
The Swiss Health Insurance Act of 1996 is the basis for today’s system. It defines the scope of the mandatory basic health insurance which all insurers have to provide ("Grundversicherung"). For those curious to know the ins and outs, we have already outlined the Swiss health care system in more detail in this post.
1. How to select basic Swiss health insurance
Figuring out health insurance in Switzerland can be quite complex. With dozens of insurers offering a myriad of plans, sorting through all the offers can be a daunting task. So, we came up with this easy guide to help you navigate it.
However, we would advise those of you with families, pre-existing health conditions or a need for alternative treatments to talk to an insurance broker such as Expat Savvy. (Their contact form is at the bottom of this post.) Important to know is that all insurers are legally obliged to offer the same basic coverage. The coverage is for illness, accidents outside of work, as well as maternity.
The premium amounts are not varying because of differences in basic coverage. Instead, the premiums go from low to high because of premium services or extras. These include online account maintenance or a toll-free number to call 24/7.
In case you are from a place where even private insurance companies do not use "franchises", I will quickly explain what they are. The premium you pay per month will depend on the "franchise" you pick. This is the annual amount of money the insurance will not cover and which will come directly out of your pocket (a.k.a. the "deductible").
Generally speaking, the higher the deductible, the more you will have to pay out-of-pocket, but the lower your monthly premium will be.
Advice for the "Newly Swissed" among you: if you have just settled in Switzerland, make sure to get basic coverage within three months from arrival. If you miss the deadline, you will automatically be subscribed to one of the available basic plans. And more than likely, this will not be the most effective option for you.
2. How to select supplementary health insurance
In addition to basic health coverage, a majority of Swiss take out supplementary insurance to cover any gaps. This type of insurance is offered by most basic insurers and comes in two flavors: outpatient and inpatient. These insurance policies cover things like dental work, gym memberships, alternative medicine treatments or hospital ward upgrades.
But which supplementary insurances are actually worth their money? Policies offering discounts on gym memberships can be worth it if your desired gym is included. Dental policies are especially helpful for families with children who might need expensive corrections in the future.
An upgrade to a general ward is very inexpensive and covers costs at listed hospitals outside of the canton of residence. ("Allgemeine Abteilung") A semi-private room upgrade is a good investment for those who prefer privacy and comfort.
With supplementary insurance policies, you are likely getting a grab-bag full of benefits - many of these you might never be in need of. In order to stay cost efficient, it makes sense to involve an insurance broker who can help you find just the right coverage for your needs.
3. How to switch health insurers in Switzerland
The most important detail first: you are able to switch providers only once a year, and the deadline is November 30. By the last business day in November, your old insurer needs to be in possession of your cancellation letter. In 2019, the last business day will be Friday, November 29.
Now, even if you are happy with your current insurer’s service, it pays to talk to an insurance broker about any savings potential. The act of switching to another provider is very simple and can save you significant amounts on premiums.
(Most Swiss people compare rates every year and they do not mind switching their basic health insurance provider frequently.)