SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

HEALTH

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

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.

Why you should hurry if you want to change your Swiss health insurance provider
SCOTT OLSON /GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

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.

 

Member comments

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

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

Although you hope to never need one, sometimes you might have to seek legal advice in Switzerland. This is how to find it.

Reader question: How can I find a good lawyer in Switzerland?

When you move to a new country, including Switzerland, you have to look for a whole new network of professionals.

You may or may not have immediate need for the proverbial butcher, baker, and the candlestick maker, but sooner or later you will have to find other professionals, with the most essential one being a doctor.

READ MORE: What you should know about finding a doctor in Switzerland

Chances are you will also need, at one time or another, a legal counsel. That should in principle not be a problem as Switzerland has an abundance of lawyers — 7,317 currently practicing in the country, according to European data.

The question of how to find one that best suits your needs depends on many factors — for instance, what kind of legal advice you are seeking (estate planning, inheritance, divorce, etc), whether you speak the language of your region or need an English-speaking attorney,  and whether you can pay (the often exorbitant) fees, or need free counselling instead.

Speaking of fees, the hourly rates vary widely from one lawyer or legal practice to another, with some charging as little as 100 francs or as much as 1,000.

Much depends on the lawyer’s location — with the ones practicing in large cities like Zurich and Geneva being more expensive than their counterparts in small towns or rural regions  — the area of specialisation and general reputation — the more prominent the attorney is with a roster of famous or well-heeled clients, the higher fees they will typically charge.

An important thing to know is that, depending on the advice you are seeking, you may not need a lawyer at all, but rather a public notary; in Switzerland, these professionals perform many tasks that only attorneys can do in other countries, such as drawing contracts and establishing other legal documents.

Here are some tips on how to find a lawyer or a notary that best fits your needs:

Word of mouth

As with any other services, personal recommendations from people you know and trust are best.

This will spare you the effort of “investigating” the person, such as researching their credentials and feedback from previous clients — the due diligence process that everyone should undertake before hiring any professional.

Professional associations

If you don’t know anyone who can recommend an attorney, do your own research.

Professional organisations such as the Swiss Bar Association (SBA) and the Swiss Federation of Notaries are good resources, as they both allow you to look for professionals in or near your place of residence.

English-speaking attorneys

Many Swiss lawyers and notaries, especially those practicing in large urban centres where many foreign residents live, speak English.

But if you want to make sure yours does, the UK government put together a list of English speaking attorneys in Switzerland, which should help you with your search.

‘Free’ legal advice

In principle, all legal assistance comes at a cost, except for exceptional cases, which are defined by each canton.

SBA has a canton-by-canton list, where the designation “GRATIS JUDICATURE” stands for “free legal advice”.

However, there is also such a thing in Switzerland as “legal protection insurance” (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

It covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

The annual cost of this insurance, which you can purchase from practically every carrier in Switzerland, is minimal, especially if you consider how much you’d have to spend if you hired an attorney yourself.

Another benefit of these policies is that a lawyer will be assigned to you by the insurance company so you won’t have the headache of looking for one on your own.

This article provides more information about this insurance:

EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

SHOW COMMENTS