How Swiss residents are ‘paying too much’ for medicines and health insurance premiums

An investigation conducted by Santésuisse, an association of Swiss health insurers, reveals that people in Switzerland are paying far too much for health insurance premiums and medicines, when compared to neighbours in the EU.

How Swiss residents are 'paying too much' for medicines and health insurance premiums
Photo: AFP

An investigation conducted by Santésuisse, an association of Swiss health insurers, reveals that people in Switzerland are collectively overpaying their health insurance premiums by more than 1 billion CHF.

The reason is the high price of medications, even those whose patent protection has expired, the SonntagsZeitung newspaper reported.

“Many drugs whose patent protection has expired cost up to 100% more than abroad”, Santésuisse president Heinz Brand told the SonntagsZeitung.

Santésuisse arrived at the 1 billion figure by calculating how much money could be saved if all the drugs consumed annually were as cheap in Switzerland as they are in comparable countries of the European Union.

The adjusted difference between EU and Swiss prices is 1.1 billion Swiss francs. For a family of four, this would lower the cost of the annual premium by about 380 francs.

Brand called on the government to review the pricing of medications.

However, Anita Geiger of the Interpharma, a group which represents Switzerland’s pharmaceutical companies, said annual price review would not save any money “because the costs to authorities and companies would be tripled and out of proportion to the savings made”.

The Federal Office of Public Health, which sets drug prices in Switzerland, occasionally cuts the cost of certain medications.

In November 2018, for instance, it reduced the price of several common drugs by nearly 20%, but did not lower the price of 255 other medications because they were “economically sustainable” in Switzerland compared with costs in other countries and medications of similar type.

Health insurance is mandatory for all Swiss residents, including foreigners living here permanently.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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