For members


Will my Swiss health insurance cover treatment in another canton?

While health insurance falls under a Swiss federal law, each canton is responsible for administering the system on its own territory. What happens if you need to consult a doctor or be hospitalised in another area?

Will my Swiss health insurance cover treatment in another canton?
Emergency situations allow you to be treated anywhere in Switzerland. Photo: RODNAE Productions on Pexels

While in some countries you may be restricted from visiting certain doctors, generally speaking, Switzerland’s health insurance system is based on the principle on free choice.

What does this mean?

According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), “a patient is basically entitled to a free choice of healthcare professional or public care facility”.

As The Local reported last week, this means that in its standard form, the basic compulsory insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian — allows policyholders to choose their own GPs and consult specialists of their choice without a referral.

These rights are limited only if you buy a cheaper but more restrictive plan like the Health Maintainance Organisation (HMO), Telmed, or Family Doctor model, all of which require you to get prior approval of doctors for non-emergency care.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to see a specialist doctor in Switzerland without a referral

What about getting treatment in another canton?

It all depends on what kind of medical help you are seeking.

For instance, if, for whatever reason you want to consult a doctor or get an elective surgery in another canton, your health insurance will not totally cover the costs.

KVG / LaMal will only pay for treatment (both outpatient and in-hospital) in the canton where the patient lives, according to the FOPH.

However, this rule applies only to non-urgent situations; emergency cases are treated differently.

If you injure yourself skiing or require urgent surgery while visiting another canton and can’t be easily transferred to a hospital close to your home, then your insurance will cover all the the costs of medical treatment.

“In an emergency, you can go to any hospital in Switzerland”, FOPH said, adding that it must be an authorised public health facility, rather than a private clinic, which in principle is not covered by the basic insurance.

It defines “emergency” as a situation when “your state of health does not permit you to be taken to a hospital in the canton where you live. You will be transferred to a hospital in the canton where you live as soon as this is possible and sensible”.

FOPH also allows out-of-canton treatment for “particular medical reasons” — that is, if the required care can’t be provided at a public healthcare facility in your canton of residence.

Will the insurance cover any medical costs if you decide to opt for a non-emergency treatment in another canton?

If you are treated in an approved public health facility, your basic insurance will pay the difference between the tariff charged by that hospital and the tariff charged for the same treatment in a hospital in your canton of residence.

If the treatment in the other canton is more expensive than in your home canton, you will have to play the difference yourself, according to the FOPH.

If, however, you have a private or other supplemental coverage in addition to KVG / LaMal, these additional plans might cover the non-refunded difference, but check with your carrier first.

READ MORE: What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

What are The Local Switzerland’s reader questions?

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email when people get in touch with us. 

When these have value to the greater Local Switzerland community, we put them together as an article, with ‘reader question’ in the headline. 

All readers of The Local Switzerland can ask a reader question, i.e. you do not need to be a member. If you do find our reporting valuable however, then please consider signing up

You do not need to live in Switzerland to ask a reader question, i.e. you could be coming to Switzerland for a holiday and have a specific question. However, the questions have to be related to Switzerland in some way. 

We will only turn a question into a reader question article where it has value to the broader Local community and where we can answer it.

READ MORE: What are The Local Switzerland’s reader questions?

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For members


Reader question: Is Barclays closing bank accounts of Swiss-based Brits?

UK nationals living across Europe have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Will the same apply in Switzerland?

Reader question: Is Barclays closing bank accounts of Swiss-based Brits?

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Europe have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. There appears not to be an option to register for a different account.

Numerous readers of The Local have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency.

However, the widespread closures look set to avoid Swiss-based Brits at this stage, as Switzerland is not a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). 

The changes have been targeted at Brits living in EEA countries. This includes all European Union countries and every EFTA country other than Switzerland. 

A spokesperson for Barclays told The Local on Friday, July 29th, that the bank was “currently only writing to customers within the EEA”. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What is Barclay’s doing?

The closures have been announced for Brits based in the EEA in recent weeks. 

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local:As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.”

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Many UK nationals who live abroad maintain at least one UK bank account, sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

What is the situation in Switzerland?

As it stands, Brits based in Switzerland with Barclays accounts will be OK for the meantime, as the closures only impact those in EEA countries. 

However, a Barclays spokesperson told The Local that their accounts were designed for people living in the UK. 

“As a UK ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK and we continue to review the services we offer to retail customers outside of the UK.”

“If Barclays UK makes a decision to close accounts in any further countries, we will contact customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”

Stay tuned to The Local for more updates on banking and living in Switzerland.