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HEALTH INSURANCE

How to save money by changing your Swiss health policy

Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance is notoriously expensive, but you can lower the cost of premiums substantially by changing your company or coverage.

How to save money by changing your Swiss health policy
You can save thousands of francs on your health insurance coverage. Photo: Pixabay

The cost of health insurance premiums usually represents at least 7 percent of a typical household budget.

An adult spends nearly 4,600 francs a year on average on the mandatory basic coverage (KVG / LaMal) alone – covering only medical care, not dental. If any extra policies are taken out, the cost is even higher.

Not only that, but premiums have been rising practically each year, and look set to go up again in 2023, possibly by as much as 10 percent — the sharpest hike in 20 years.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

Even though these costs are high and climbing, many people keep the same health insurance for years.

However, significant savings — to the tune of thousands of francs a year — could be made simply by switching carriers or plans, from the more expensive to the cheapest ones, according to a new study by the cost comparison site Comparis.

How much and where

The amount of the savings varies depending on policyholder’s place of residence, because rates are determined by cantons.

However, Comparis calculated that over a 10-year period, people living in Zurich could have saved 33,396 francs in premium costs and for those living in Bern this amount is 30,064.

Lausanne residents could cut their costs by 36,494 francs over 10 years, 31, 032 in Geneva, and 33,490 in Basel-City.

“With the strong premium increases expected this fall, the savings potential is even greater,” said Felix Schneuwly, health insurance expert at Comparis.

So how can you save money? Here are some of the ways:

Increase your deductible

In Switzerland, the deductible (franchise) ranges from 300 to 2,500 francs – this represents the medical costs that you have to pay out of your own pocket before your health insurance kicks in.

As with most types of insurance, the lower your deductible, the higher your premiums, and vice-versa.

If you are young, healthy, and are not on any long-term medication then you can save substantially with the highest franchise.

Keep in mind, however, that if you choose the highest deductible and end up having an accident or falling sick and needing medical care, you will have to pay a greater proportion of the costs.

Switch to a less expensive plan.

The standard model for healthcare in Switzerland is that you can consult any medic that you want, and you do not need a referral to see a specialist.

However, there are some types of health insurance plans that have cheaper premiums, but impose certain limits on your access to non-emergency medical care.

For instance:

Health maintenance organisation (HMO)

Under this model, policyholders are required to consult a particular HMO practice. Two disadvantages of this alternative is a limited choice of doctors and you also need a referral to see a specialist.

However, the benefit is a premium reduction of up to 25 percent compared to the conventional insurance.

Family doctor model

Your family doctor, a general practitioner, will be designated by your insurance company and will be in charge of all your non-emergency medical treatment.

He or she will refer you to a specialist if necessary. 

If you opt for this option, you could save 20 percent on your insurance.

READ MORE: Five tips for getting cheaper health insurance in Switzerland

The Telmed alternative

If you choose this option, you have to call a telephone service and get a referral to a doctor or hospital.

This does not apply to medical emergencies and there are other exceptions, such as eye exams and annual gynaecological check-ups.

Total savings could range between 15 and 20 percent. 

Cancelling or changing your policy

If you want to cancel your current insurance policy and take up a cheaper one , you have to do so by registered letter before November 30th.

By then, you will know what your premiums will be in 2023 because your carrier must notify you of the new rates by October 31st.

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HEALTH INSURANCE

Which Swiss cantons will see the biggest increase in health insurance premiums?

Swiss health insurance premiums will rise by 6.6 percent in 2023, the government announced on Tuesday, but the hikes will be higher in certain parts of the country.

Which Swiss cantons will see the biggest increase in health insurance premiums?

After four years of relatively stable premiums, the rates on the Switzerland’s obligatory basic health insurance (KVG / LaMal) will jump by 6.6 percent on average, Health Minister Alain Berset announced at a press conference.

This means the average premium will amount to 334.70 francs for an adult per month.

“All categories combined, this represents an increase of 20.70 francs per month, or nearly 250 francs more per year. A family of four will therefore have to spend nearly 1,000 francs more per year to pay their premiums”, the Federal Office of Public Health said in a statement.

While premiums will go up throughout Switzerland, residents of some cantons will have to pay more for healthcare than their counterparts in others.

The highest, above-national-average premiums will hit Neuchâtel (+9.5 percent), Appenzell Innerrhoden (9.3 percent), and Ticino (9.2 percent).

Residents of Zurich will see their premiums increase by 7 percent.

In Vaud and Valais, the rates will hover just below the national average, at 6.1 percent, and in Bern by 6.4 percent. Geneva and Basel, on the other hand, will see their premiums rise by a relatively ‘low’ 4.2 and 3.6 percent, respectively.

“Premiums are calculated in advance using estimates”, FOPH said.  “The pandemic has made this exercise particularly difficult. It now appears that the premiums paid during the years 2021 and 2022 proved insufficient to cover the costs. In accordance with the law, a catch-up is essential in 2023”.

You will be informed of your exact premiums before the end of October.

You could then switch to a less expensive option, notifying your current carrier of the change by November 30th at the latest.

READ MORE: How to save money by changing your Swiss health policy
 

Rising healthcare costs

Higher premiums reflect the general trend in healthcare costs that have been soaring in Switzerland in the past several years.

The reasons include more expensive technology, higher spending during the Covid pandemic, longer life expectancy, and overcharging for patient services.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are Swiss health insurance premiums set to rise?

The government has proposed several concrete measures to curb the costs, but they still have to be approved by MPs.
 

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