Health Insurance

Health Insurance for Expatriates in Switzerland

Welcome to our country guide providing economic, healthcare and health insurance information for expatriates living or planning to live in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a small country and officially known as the Swiss Confederation. Its landscape offers mountains and lakes and there are both modern and historic cities – the capital city being Bern. In June 2016 the world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel – Gotthard Tunnel – officially opened providing transport links under the Swiss Alps between northern and southern Europe.

Switzerland map

Switzerland has a strong economy with a very high GDP and low unemployment. Over 8 million people live in the country, split approximately 50/50 men and women and with an estimated 24.3% foreigners. A useful summary of country and population data on Switzerland can be found here.

Switzerland in numbers:

Area

41,285 sq metres

Population (total)

8.2 million*

Expat population

1.9 million **

Life expectancy

83 years

*World Bank

** Swiss Federal Statistical Office

Healthcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a universal healthcare system, there is no public health system and all residents must have private health insurance. Public servants and embassy workers can get free healthcare but must apply to be considered by the relevant government body. Anyone who has lived in the country for less than three months is exempt from buying healthcare insurance as long as they hold a European health insurance card, an EHIC. Switzerland has an advanced healthcare system with excellent services, equipment and facilities as well as highly qualified medical staff. Waiting lists are minimal and the level of care very efficient.

Private medical insurance in Switzerland – LAMal

Expats residing in Switzerland for more than three months must have basic private health and accident insurance as a minimum. Locally, this cover is referred to as LAMal, which is the basic mandatory insurance in Switzerland.

Each member of a family must subscribe to LAMal individually, including babies from birth. There are a number of exemptions to this rule, however, including international civil servants and embassy workers and their family members. Click here for further details on exemptions.

An adult can expect to pay around CHF400 (approx. $400) in premiums per month plus extra payments directly to consultants. Residents can only insure with one of the authorised insurers in Switzerland, of which there are around 80 who are recognised. Information on recognised insurers is listed on the Federal Office for Public Health website along with comparison rates.

Basic health insurance typically covers outpatient care, emergency treatment, prescribed medicines, maternity check-ups and antenatal classes and vaccinations. There are usually excesses of around 10 per cent. Many top up their LAMal with supplementary local or international private health insurance plans – international plans tending to offer richer cover benefits than local plans. This will vary according to needs but might include dental treatment, vision care, and access to private wards and rooms. 

Important health information before you go

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations and some may also be required for travel.

Routine Vaccines

Make sure you are up to date on routine vaccines. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio, and your flu injection.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A outbreaks occur throughout the world and sometimes in countries with a low risk for hepatitis A (including the US). You can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Switzerland, so talk to your doctor to see if the hepatitis A vaccine is right for you.

Rabies

Rabies is present in bats in Switzerland, however, it is not a major risk to most travellers. CDC recommends rabies vaccine for only these groups:

  • Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for bat bites (such as adventure travel and caving).
  • People who will be working with or around bats (such as wildlife professionals and researchers).

Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

Prescription drugs

Pharmacies are recognised by their green cross, there are many to choose from throughout Switzerland. Openings times are generally from 8am to 12pm then 2pm to 6pm daily except Sundays. Pharmacist will ask for an initial one off charge to open an account where all your medical details and medications will be recorded. This applies to every new pharmacy you visit. Pharmacists in Switzerland will provide health advice and if you need an emergency out-of-hours pharmacy you can find the nearest one to you at SOS pharmacy. Medicines will cost more at out-of-hours pharmacies and generic medicines are usually cheaper than branded. Non-prescription medication is not covered by standard medical insurance plans but can be added.

Health checks

There is a good choice of doctors, however, there may be restrictions on your policy so check prior to a visit. A doctor may provide treatment but then recommend visits to a polyclinic or hospital. It is possible to visit specialist consultants without a referral from a doctor. Usually children visit a paediatrician for check-ups.

Finding a doctor in Switzerland is easy and can be done through online listings such as www.doctor.ch. A visit to a doctor is by appointment only and 24 hours’ notice is usually required.

Expatriates with pre-existing medical conditions musty provide details to their doctor as well as copies of prescriptions. Insurance providers should also be informed.

Medical Emergencies

Emergency treatment is covered by basic health insurance plans and doctors/hospitals can be consulted directly in an emergency. Insurance policy details must be carried at all times as plan details will be requested when treatment is required.

In an emergency you can go straight to a hospital A&E, most are open 24 hours. Useful emergency numbers include:

  • 112 – general emergencies.
  • 114 – ambulance
  • 117 – police.
  • 1818 – information service in German, French, Italian and English.
  • 1414 – Swiss Rescue.

Healthcare Facilities

Hospitals are calledKrankenhaus, Spital, Hospital or Ospedale and are recognisable from the white H on a blue background. Expatriates and travellers will need to take their EHIC or proof of a Swiss health insurance policy. The standard of hospitals in Switzerland is generally excellent.