Geneva initiative aims to cap health insurance premiums

The political left in Geneva has launched a cantonal initiative aiming to cap basic health insurance premiums at ten percent of a household’s income.

Geneva initiative aims to cap health insurance premiums
Speaking to the press including Le Temps, Carole-Anne Kast, president of Geneva’s Socialist Party, said they would prefer action to be taken at federal level but that they were not willing to wait any longer. 
“We are pleading to Bern for reform but we must take action locally now. We can’t wait,” she said.
The initiative doesn’t aim to help people who are already receiving social assistance to pay their premiums, but those working people who pay more than ten percent of their income on health insurance.
Campaigners have until March 2018 to gather the required 5,100 signatures to push it to a cantonal referendum.
Geneva residents pay among the highest premiums in Switzerland for their compulsory basic health insurance (LaMal), which provides the same cover wherever you live in the country but is calculated on the costs to insurers of providing healthcare in that canton.
According to figures from the Swiss statistics office quoted by Le Temps, the average monthly premium in 2017 (based on a 300 franc excess with accident cover) was 447 francs in Switzerland as a whole, but 554 francs in Geneva, set to rise to 583 in 2018.
Premiums will rise by an average of four percent in 2018, but again that varies, with the canton of Vaud seeing the highest increases (6.4 percent) against Schwyz on the lowest (1.6 percent).
In 2016 the Swiss upper house of parliament rejected a similar initiative to cap premiums at federal level, saying it should be up to the cantons to legislate on the issue.
Premiums for compulsory medical insurance are set by the country's 60-odd private insurers each year, usually at the end of September, with figures approved by the federal government.
In 2014 voters rejected an initiative to change the system to a single, publicly-run insurance scheme which backers said would have helped to reign in premiums.
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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad