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Switzerland is a country known for its efficiency and high standard of living, and it should therefore come as no surprise that the local healthcare system is renowned as one of the best in the world. This system is administered by each state of the Swiss confederation, known as a canton, and is a seamless solution that brings together the public and private sectors.
There is no free healthcare in Switzerland and individual health insurance is compulsory for all residents. Expats will find that both public and private healthcare are of the standard they can expect from many other North American or West European countries. Facilities tend to be clean and well-equipped, waiting times are usually short, and medical professionals often speak English.
The Swiss public healthcare system is unusual as it is not financed through taxation or employers. All residents are obliged to have basic health and accident insurance, and are free to choose their own policy from a range of insurance companies. This basic policy covers most of the usual medical treatments, including maternity and accidents.
Insurance premiums vary across cantons and according to the chosen insurance company. Anyone legally resident must pay a contribution to medical treatments and consultations. This deductible fee, known as a franchise, can be decreased for a higher monthly premium. There are extra costs involved as well, such as hospitalisation fees and prescription fees. Patients are generally expected to settle the bills themselves and claim from their insurers afterwards. Some insurers have payment agreements with certain doctors and hospitals, and settle bills directly.
Many Swiss residents opt to take out supplementary private health insurance as well to cover more than just the bare minimum. Expats who work for more than eight hours a week are automatically covered for accidents by their employers, but those who are self-employed or unemployed must find a way to cover these costs themselves.
New arrivals to Switzerland have three months to choose their policy and provide proof of insurance to their local authorities. Each family member must be insured individually.
Expats may be exempt from the mandatory Swiss health insurance if they have a European Health Insurance Card or private international health insurance, but it is best to check with local authorities to ensure compliance.
Most healthcare providers in Switzerland are private establishments and have world-renowned standards. Thanks to the basic health insurance policy, expats in Switzerland will have access to high quality healthcare, but not all medical issues are covered. Dental care is one of these, and many choose to pay for private dental insurance separately.
International health insurance usually also provides access to a wider choice of healthcare professionals, as some basic policies are limited to certain doctors and hospitals. Basic insurance only allows access to the general wards of a hospital; those that need a private room, will have to pay for it themselves or rely on private insurance.
Pharmacies and medication
Pharmacies in Switzerland, known as apotheke, are easily found in most towns and city centres. They generally operate from 9am to 5pm and are closed for an hour around lunchtime and all day on Sundays. Expats who need to find medication outside of normal hours can access an emergency pharmacy, but bear in mind that these are generally more expensive.
Opening a patient file incurs a small fee, so sticking with one pharmacy is a good idea. Branded medicine tends to cost more so it is recommended that expats ask the pharmacist for a generic version of the medication.
Ambulance services are not fully covered by the basic Swiss health insurance, and expats can avoid a surprise bill by taking note of this. Most hospitals have accident and emergency departments, and having proof of medical insurance on one’s person at all times is strongly recommended. An ambulance can be reached by calling 144 or the general European emergency number, 112.
Regional healthcare plans for groups in Switzerland
Our plans created in partnership with local provider KPT and Allianz Global Assistance, are designed for global organisations with staff based inside and outside Switzerland.