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Why you should hurry if you want to change your Swiss health insurance provider

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Why you should hurry if you want to change your Swiss health insurance provider
SCOTT OLSON /GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
14:53 CET+01:00
If you are planning to cancel your existing policy for next year, or change the amount of your deductible, you must notify your carrier by registered letter before November 29th at the latest.

By now, you will likely have received a letter from your insurance company, notifying you of the premium for 2020 — by law, carriers must announce the new rates to their clients no later than October 31st.

The cost will be about 0.2 percent higher than the current rate.

Why should I consider changing my insurance company?

Because the differences in premiums from one insurer to another can vary, and you could potentially save several hundred francs a year. So in theory you’d get the same benefits for less money.

If you do decide to part ways with your current carrier, make sure you have another one in its place. It's the law.

READ MORE: Swiss health insurers warn of premium price hike in 2020

Is health insurance mandatory in Switzerland?

Yes, since 1996, everyone residing in Switzerland — whether a Swiss citizen or foreign national — must have the compulsory health insurance (called LaMal). Currently, 57 companies offer the same insurance coverage for basic healthcare and hospitalisation.

The supplemental insurance, however, is not mandatory. It offers additional services not covered by LaMal, including alternative medicine, which must be provided by an accredited specialist.

By the way, companies can’t deny basic coverage to anyone, regardless of age or medical condition.

Supplemental insurers, on the other hand, can — and do — cherry-pick.

What if I don’t purchase a health insurance policy?

If you haven’t signed up with an insurance carrier within three months of your arrival in Switzerland, your local authority will choose a plan on your behalf and you will have to pay the premiums.

If you don’t, you’ll be placed on a blacklist, along with approximately 30,000 others.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) you’ll be caught and will have to pay arrears— the Swiss are very organised and efficient.

READ MORE: What you need to know before taking out Swiss health insurance

Are premiums the same all over Switzerland?

No. Prices differ, depending on your canton of residence — their health infrastructure and government funding determine the cost.

Generally speaking, Basel, Geneva and Vaud have the highest premiums, while Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Nidwalden, Uri, Zug and Obwalden are the cheapest.

Rates also depend on what deductible you choose (they range from 300 to 2500 francs). The lower the deductible, the higher the premium.

Does basic insurance cover all medical expenses?

It pays for doctor-prescribed medications, treatments, and hospitalisations. But it never covers 100 percent of your expenses. Aside from the deductible, you usually pay 10 percent of the cost for your doctor’s visits and prescription medications. If you choose a brand drug when a generic alternative is available, that can rise to 20 percent.

Are Swiss happy with this system?

Although a lot of people complain about rising premiums, they still prefer the existing system over the one in place in EU countries. A proposal to have a single health insurer was rejected in a nationwide referendum in 2014.

 

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