health insurance For Members

What is Switzerland’s health insurance card and how do I get it?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What is Switzerland’s health insurance card and how do I get it?
You need to carry your health insurance card in your wallet at all times, just in case. Photo by Georgi Dyulgerov on Unsplash

Your wallet is already likely filled with various ‘plastic’ — the ID, driver’s license, and credit cards. Must you also carry a Swiss health insurance card with you at all times?


If you have a Swiss health insurance policy — as every resident must, since this coverage is compulsory — then you will also have an insurance card.

This is how it works:

When you buy a health insurance policy in Switzerland from any of the dozens of approved providers, you will receive a credit card-sized card to be used as proof of insurance.

You don’t need to apply for the card, nor specifically ask for it; it will be sent to you automatically.

Note, however, that it only proves you have the basic obligatory coverage (KVG / LaMal); it will not indicate — nor is it required to — any supplemental health policies you may have purchased as well.

What does the health insurance card look like?

The cards for all insurance carriers are issued by a subsidiary of the Santésuisse health insurance association.

They all have the same credit-card-like format.

Aside from your name, date of birth, and AHV / AVS number, the card also includes, both recto and verso, the name of your insurance company, client number, and the date of validity.

When do you need to show this card?

You will have to present it each time you seek medical treatment that is included under the obligatory KVG / LaMal scheme, and also when filling medical prescriptions at pharmacies.

Your regular doctor and pharmacy will usually have your health insurance information on file, so you will not have to show it each time.

According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which oversees the obligatory health insurance scheme, "the card displays visual data and contains data stored on a chip. Service providers can use this information for billing purposes. They can also use the health insurance card to access the insurance company’s online processing system to check whether administrative data is up-to-date. If need be, they can also obtain additional information, such as the term of validity of the card, the insured person’s address, other forms of insurance and supplementary insurance." 

All this “simplifies the billing process between the insurer and the service provider,” FOPH added.


Can you use Swiss health insurance card abroad?

It depends on where you are when you seek medical help.

In EU and EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), all you have do is present your Swiss card, which is equivalent to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This way, you can be treated and the bill will go directly to your Swiss insurance company.

(The same reciprocity rules apply to EU / EFTA residents who get ill while visiting Switzerland).

If, however, you travel outside of the EU / EFTA, your card will not be valid, so you will have to pay your bill directly and then try to get a refund from your Swiss carrier.

What happens if you lose your health insurance card?

Your provider will sent you a new one, usually free of charge.

If you need medical care in the meantime, you can present the insurance certificate letter your carrier has issued when you took up your policy.


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