Healthcare Basics

Health insurance in Switzerland

Learn all about health insurance in Switzerland – find out how much it costs, how to get it, and what it covers.

health insurance Switzerland

By Gary Buswell

Updated 15-3-2024

While the Swiss healthcare system is renowned for being one of the best in Europe, it’s also one of the most expensive. It may seem complicated at first with a range of public-private health insurance options, but there are plenty of resources to help you navigate the system. Ensure you understand health insurance in Switzerland to avoid any potential financial setbacks while settling into your new home.

Read on for more information about the following:

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Swiss health insurance

Although Switzerland has universal healthcare, if you are living in Switzerland, you must take out a health insurance policy within three months of moving to the country. It is your responsibility to arrange your coverage.

A sign showing the way to a hospital in Champéry, Switzerland

After arriving in Switzerland, you have 90 days to sign up for a health insurance plan or apply for an exemption. To continue to access Swiss healthcare, you’ll need to pay monthly health insurance premiums and part of the cost of your medical treatment in Switzerland. It’s up to you whether you opt for basic coverage or combine it with additional private insurance.

Who manages health insurance and healthcare in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, 60 non-profit insurers offer compulsory basic insurance and optional additional coverage.

Unlike many other universal healthcare systems, the Swiss social security agency doesn’t manage health insurance. Instead, Switzerland’s 26 cantons individually administer healthcare. Each canton has a health minister, and these come together to form the Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health (GDK).

The GDK ensures cooperation and consistency in healthcare policymaking and implementation between the cantons. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is the Swiss national agency that manages this process.

Who needs Swiss health insurance?

In most cases, internationals living or working in Switzerland need to take out Swiss health insurance once they become valid residents. You can check the health insurance requirements on a case-by-case basis on the FOPH website.

Who is exempt?

The following groups of people are usually exempt from Swiss health insurance requirements:

If you’re an EU citizen visiting for less than three months, you’ll be eligible for state Swiss healthcare at a reduced cost through your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Once you become an official resident or get a job, however, you’ll need to join a Swiss health insurance scheme.

Other exemptions apply in certain circumstances. After you register your address with your local commune, they will typically send you a letter to prove your health insurance coverage. You can ask your local authority if you qualify for an exemption, or check the FOPH website.

Insurance coverage for children

After giving birth in Switzerland, you must insure your baby within three months. As long as you meet this deadline, coverage will date retrospectively to the birth date of the baby. If you take out insurance after three months, coverage will start from the date of your policy; this can mean that fees relating to the birth aren’t covered.

A new mother looks excited and surprised while breastfeeding her new baby for the first time.
Photo: AscentXmedia/Getty Images

Children up to 18 can have coverage with a different company from their parents and benefit from price reductions. Once 18, young adults are responsible for their own health insurance and typically receive a reminder before their birthday.

What happens if I am not covered by health insurance?

Failure to purchase health insurance in Switzerland by the three-month deadline means that your local authority will sign you up for a plan, which might mean you pay higher premiums. Anyone in Switzerland without an insurance plan, other than those exempted, cannot access Swiss health services other than emergency treatment, for which they will receive a bill.

Swiss public health insurance

Private companies provide health insurance in Switzerland. However, the Swiss government stipulates that all residents must purchase a minimum basic health insurance package with voluntary top-ups available. Unless you qualify for an exemption, you must get at least basic insurance.

What does basic public health insurance cover?

Swiss public health insurance covers 80–90% of medical costs (excluding the first CHF 300 of annual treatment costs and daily fees for hospital stays). The coverage is identical across all providers and includes:

Type of careNote
AccidentsIf you work eight hours or more per week, you’re covered by your employer against accidents. If your employer doesn’t provide coverage, you must get additional accident coverage.
Alternative therapyCovers some treatments if done by an accredited specialist, including acupuncture, pharmacotherapy, and homeopathy.
Cancer screeningsCovers mammograms and colon cancer screenings for those over 50.
Dental careCovers only emergency treatment relating to serious mouth or jaw disorders or diseases.
Doctors and medical specialistsCovers general checkups and treatments, including physiotherapy. Exclusions include some specialist procedures, and premiums are higher for high-risk patients.
Eye careCovers children up to 18 for glasses prescriptions and contact lenses up to CHF 180 a year. It also covers adults with serious visual conditions.
Hospital visitsCovers inpatient, outpatient, and emergency treatment.
Maternity careIncludes prenatal classes, childbirth expenses, and abortions.
Medical devicesClaims are possible for items such as bandages, inhalers, or incontinence products.
Medical transportPays for 50% of costs.
MedicationCovers 80 or 90% of prescriptions.
Mental healthcareIncludes services like psychotherapy. However, alternative or rehabilitative programs may not be covered.
RehabilitationCovers care after an operation or serious illness.
Sexual healthCovers gynecologist visits but not sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests.
Treatment abroadEU/EFTA countries are covered through the EHIC. Covers some costs in non-EU countries during short trips, although you may need additional travel insurance. Check which conditions apply.
VaccinationsCovers the Swiss Vaccination Plan guidelines.

Choosing and changing health insurance provider

You can find details of health insurance providers in Switzerland from your local cantonal authority. When choosing a provider, look at costs, what they cover, and the claims process. Shopping around and choosing a provider that best suits your circumstances and preferences is advisable.

Foreigners can only sign up for Swiss healthcare once they have arrived and applied for their residence permit or registered with the local commune.

Once registered with a Swiss health insurance company, it will backdate to the day you were applicable for coverage. For example, you will be covered from the day you took up residency or gave birth. As you can claim expenses retrospectively, you must also pay the premiums from the beginning of your compulsory insurance period. Policies usually only include coverage for an individual and not additional family members, so spouses and children must have separate coverage. You usually have to provide proof of residence and address details to take out a policy.

If you wish to change Swiss health insurance companies, you can do so with three months’ notice before the end of June or the end of December, provided you’re on a package where you pay the standard CHF 300 excess. Otherwise, you can only change your health insurer at the end of each calendar year, typically giving one month’s notice. The Swiss government website provides full information on the process, including sample cancellation letters.

Private Swiss health insurance

All insurance in Switzerland is private. However, there’s a distinction between a basic-level plan and voluntary or top-up coverage. With private voluntary health insurance, Swiss residents get access to a broader range of treatments and better accommodation in the case of hospital admission.

Who should get voluntary health insurance?

Voluntary insurance is worth considering for expats, who can benefit from global plans offered by international companies. It’s also worth considering for those with chronic medical conditions or who anticipate needing regular dental or mental health treatment.

A doctor check's her patient's throat with one hand on each side
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

What are the advantages of private health insurance?

Adding on voluntary private health insurance will give you a better chance at finding an English-speaking doctor, plus access to more treatments. These include dental work, specialist care, and complementary treatment such as osteopathy, private healthcare services, and benefits during hospital stays (e.g., private room, free choice of doctor).

How does voluntary health insurance work?

You can take out private health insurance with either the same provider of your basic package or a different one. Swiss health insurance lets you select the level of extra coverage you want; your risk profile will determine the costs and range of benefits.

Where you live also has a bearing on how much your insurance costs (the most expensive cantons are around 60% higher than the cheapest). Typically, you must pay medical fees upfront and then claim reimbursements from the insurer once they have a copy of the receipt.

How to choose a private provider

It is advisable to shop around for quotes from different companies and see who offers the best supplementary deals to suit your circumstances. Expat-friendly insurance brokers such as Swiss Prime International can help you compare different health insurance packages and choose the best fit for your situation.

Which companies offer private health insurance in Switzerland?

Companies providing international supplementary health insurance in Switzerland include:

Health insurance costs and reimbursements

How much is health insurance in Switzerland?

Health insurance is generally very expensive in Switzerland compared to other European countries. Every Swiss health insurance plan requires you to pay a monthly premium fee that varies by provider. In 2024, the average monthly premium for adults over 26 will be CHF 397.20 (in German). People under 26 pay lower premiums, around CHF 300.60 per month.

A customer consults a pharmacist at the drug store while another shops for medicine behind them
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Swiss health insurance fees are reviewed each year according to various factors (e.g., healthcare costs, company debt). This review can result in premiums varying widely year-on-year when companies fail to cover costs. According to the FOPH, Swiss health insurance premiums will rise by 8.7% in 2024. Meanwhile, some low-cost providers raised their premiums by 15–20%.

Annual health insurance excess and deductibles

State healthcare in Switzerland works on an excess system, so you’ll need to pay a minimum of the first CHF 300 of your medical expenses yearly (no excess applies to children under 18). Your Swiss health insurance provider will only cover bills above this excess. You can pay a higher deductible, resulting in lower monthly fees.

Regardless of your deductible, you’ll also need to pay between 10–20% of healthcare charges up to a maximum of CHF 700 per year; or CHF 350 per year for children. If admitted to a hospital, you must pay CHF 15 daily. Pregnancy, birth, and post-natal care are exempt from excess charges and are covered in full by state health insurance.

How do I claim with Swiss health insurance?

Most health insurance firms in Switzerland will expect you to pay fees upfront and then claim reimbursements afterward. You must submit a claim form (available through your insurer) along with necessary invoices or receipts. Reimbursements usually take a few weeks to come through. Check with your insurer for exact details of the process and likely waiting times.

What is the cheapest health insurance in Switzerland?

You can get the cheapest public health insurance in Switzerland by choosing a basic plan and reducing your monthly premium. There are a few different ways to do this, including:

  • Choosing a policy with a restricted choice of doctor or health maintenance organization (HMO)
  • Taking out a Telmed policy, where you must first call a medical helpline and get a referral to a doctor or hospital
  • Increasing your yearly deductible to CHF 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, or 2500
  • Paying a lump amount of fees upfront (you can get a discount of around 2% for annual upfront payments)

You can also estimate monthly premiums using the official calculator (in German).

Health insurance for the unemployed and low earners

Those who are unemployed or living on a low salary in Switzerland may qualify for a premium reduction to help make health insurance more affordable. This is a type of subsidy administered at the local level. Both eligibility and the amount you can get taken off your premium varies by canton.

The University Hospital of Zurich displays a sign outside showing the way to the entrance, emergency drop-off, and various departments.
University Hospital of Zürich (USZ) (Photo: Rafael_Wiedenmeier/Getty Images)

If you qualify for a health insurance subsidy, the local cantonal authority may contact you after you file your annual tax return. Or you can contact your local canton to inquire if you think you qualify for a reduction and haven’t heard from them.

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