What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
Are you planning to spend your holidays abroad this year, but are not sure whether your Switzerland-based health insurance covers you in foreign countries?
Will you be going abroad this summer? If so, it would be very wise to review your Swiss health insurance before you leave, so that you know what it will and will not cover in case you or a family member get sick abroad.
Just as a reminder — though no doubt you already know this — health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland. So if you are a legal resident here, you have at least the basic required coverage, the LaMal.
Your Swiss insurance will pay for medical emergencies abroad
If you become ill while vacationing out of the country, have an accident or need urgent surgery, the Swiss insurance will pay for the immediate emergency treatment you require.
Once your condition is stabilised by local doctors and it is safe for you to travel, you will be transferred back to Switzerland to a hospital nearest to your place of residence.
Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to insurance coverage, not all countries are created equal.
If you get sick in one of the EU or EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) nations, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) — that is, your regular Swiss insurance card — entitles you to receive the same paid services as someone who is insured in that country. So always keep the card with you when travelling in the EU or an EFTA state.
The card also has a telephone number you can call from abroad. It starts with +41, while the local contact number usually begins with 08.
When you return to Switzerland, you’ll have to send the documents you received from a foreign medical centre to your insurance for a refund.
The insurance will reimburse up to a maximum of twice what the same treatment would have cost in Switzerland.
Beware, things get more complicated (and much more expensive) if you travel to the United States.
The cost of medical care in the USA is notoriously high and even the simplest treatment will cost more than twice what it would in Switzerland. That’s why, if you only have basic (LaMal) coverage, your Swiss health insurance policy will not suffice to cover whatever costs you incur.
If, however, you have a supplemental private insurance, you carrier will cover more costs.
You will have to pay the treatment with a credit card, the copy of which you’ll have to send to your insurance here.
And don’t forget to ask the doctor or hospital to give you a detailed copy of all the charges, as well as treatment notes, because otherwise the insurance will not give you a refund.
A word of advice before you go to high-cost countries like the USA:
Take out additional health insurance to cover the cost of treatment abroad.
Most major insurers in Switzerland, like TCS, Allianz and AXA, offer supplemental global health coverage that would pay for most (if not all) of the costs which are unrefunded by your main insurance.