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Reader question: Can I use my EU health insurance instead of buying Swiss cover?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I use my EU health insurance instead of buying Swiss cover?
Your EHIC will not get your far in Switzerland. Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

Given the high cost of the obligatory health insurance in Switzerland, you may be tempted to avoid purchasing one. Are you allowed to use insurance from another country instead?

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The announcement on Tuesday September 26th that health insurance premiums in Switzerland will go up by 8.7 percent on average in 2024 has upset many people, as such a significant hike is likely to strain their budgets. 

If you come from an EU or EFTA state, you may be wondering whether your health insurance from your home country can be used instead of the Swiss one.

The answer depends on your status in Switzerland.

If you are just a visitor who is staying in the country for up to 90 days, you are not required to take out Swiss insurance. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover you, free of charge, for medical emergencies (just as a Swiss tourist would be within the European Union / EFTA).

But if you are a permanent resident with a B, C, or L permit, you can’t rely on your EHIC to get you medical care in Switzerland.

Swiss law clearly states that “anyone settling in Switzerland must obtain insurance within three months after taking up residence."

How do Swiss authorities know you are a resident and not a tourist?

If you comply with the law (as you should), you must register with your commune of residence within 14 days of your arrival. When you do so, you will no longer be able to remain under the radar, especially in a well-organised country like Switzerland.

Once you register, you will receive a letter from your canton saying that you must take out a Swiss health insurance policy within 90 days, and send them proof that you have done so.

Not complying with this rule will affect you in many ways, none of them good.

Firstly, the canton will keep sending you several letters reminding you of your obligation to buy insurance. If you still abstain from doing so, authorities will purchase a policy on your behalf and send you a bill.

If you still refuse to pay it, then legal proceedings will be filed against you. You will be ‘harassed’ by the debt enforcement office in your municipality and eventually taken to court.

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There are other consequences as well.

Without proof of (Swiss) health insurance you will not be able to get a job or rent an apartment, and showing your EHIC instead will get you nowhere.

And, you will not be entitled to medical help without a proper insurance coverage, and will be treated only in case of emergencies.

All this to say that any attempts to beat the system will turn against you.

READ ALSO: What happens if I don't buy Swiss health insurance?

However, there are some situations (aside from being a tourist) when you can be legally exempted from purchasing a Swiss health policy.

For instance, you are not required to take out insurance if:

  • You are retired and get a pension exclusively in an EU or EFTA state
  • You are a cross-border worker with healthcare policy in a EU or EFTA state
  • You are a foreign student and have comparable insurance from your country
  • You work for international organisations or are a diplomat

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