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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.

 

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

The Perseids is one of the best annual meteor showers, showing their fireballs on warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. In Switzerland, some towns want to make the event even more special by turning off their lights.

REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

Every year, skywatchers get ready for the Perseid meteor shower, which in 2022 is going to peak in the early hours of Saturday, just before dawn. At its peak, it will be possible to see about 200 shooting starts per hour if the conditions are optimal.

The Perseids, as this particular meteor shower is known, are fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Its small dust particles (not actual stars) burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. They can be observed worldwide but are best viewed in the northern hemisphere.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

And they may be in large parts of Switzerland. Despite the full moon blocking some of the views (don’t worry, the moon should set at around 2 am), the skies should be clear of clouds during the early hours of Saturday, according to the Swiss meteorology agency MeteoSchweiz.

Some cities also want to remove another major obstacle to stargazing: the artificial lightning that hides most of our stars, the Milky Way, and many shooting stars. The Projet Perseides invites Swiss towns to turn off municipal lights and incentivise stargazing.

The project, created in the French-speaking cantons, has gathered support mainly in western Swiss, but, according to the organisers: “Ultimately, we are targeting the whole of Europe”.

Which cities are participating?

You can find the complete list of municipalities here. The communes include Champagne, Grandson, La Chaux, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Provence, Yverdon-les-Bains, Fribourg, and more than 100 others.

The project invites the municipalities to turn off their public lightning and convince citizens and businesses to do the same – all voluntarily.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

Projet Perseides started in Orbe in 2019 when the non-profit association convinced the town and surrounding municipalities to turn out the lights. In 2020, nearly 120 Vaud cities joined the project. The following year, they were joined by cities in Valais, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, according to the site.

What if my city is not among them?

Even if your city is not a part of the project, it is still possible to watch the phenomenon. The best time would be between 2 am (when the bright full moon sets) and pre-dawn hours, so until around 5 am.

The association says: “to enjoy the night, don’t look at light sources. Let your eyes become accustomed to the darkness”. This includes ditching your phone for a few hours.

If you can visit a part of town with little artificial light, perhaps going up a mountain, for example, you also improve your chances of seeing more of the shower.

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