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How to save money on your Swiss health insurance

Each year, some 600,000 Swiss residents switch health insurance providers to save money on their monthly healthcare premiums. Find out if you should join them - and what you stand to gain.

How to save money on your Swiss health insurance
Photo: Depositphotos

The desk research required to compare health insurance providers is time-consuming and, for expats, it’s even more mind-boggling to try to figure out the important differences between the 60-plus Swiss health insurers.

Before we get into how and when to make a switch, let’s consider the reasons why you might want to do so in the first place.

Reducing the premium of basic health insurance

Every fall, Switzerland assesses the state of health insurance. Various factors contribute to the premium level of the upcoming year, and it can easily go up by several percent. Since it is up to each insurer to decide how much they want to raise their policies, you can save money by making a timely switch.

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Another way to save on premiums is to change your health insurance plan. For example, you can expect a lower your premium if you are willing to accept a restriction on your choice of doctors, and most insurers will offer you a discount if you pay your premiumas a lump sum at the beginning of the year.

Photo: Depositphotos

Changing health insurance needs

Life has a habit of changing and what you need from your Swiss health insurance will too. Sooner or later, you may want to whiten your teeth or treat yourself to a massage. Supplementary policies are often the most cost-efficient way of covering these extras.

If you want to minimize your health insurance costs, it’s good to know that supplementary policies are not tied to your basic insurance policy – so you can go ahead with whatever insurer offers you the best deal. However, also keep in mind that the issuer of your basic policy might give you a discount if you sign up with them for supplementary coverage.

Changes in family structure or primary residence

As most Swiss residents are well aware, premiums for basic health insurance vary depending on the age of the insured. Like elsewhere in Europe, the three official age groups are children up to 18 years, young adults from 19 to 25 years, and adults above 26 years.

Let independent insurance advisory Expat Savvy help you assess your current health insurance policy

Every time someone in your family crosses the threshold into a new age group, you should be sure to assess their basic coverage. This is particularly important if you have a teenager about to turn 18 since it means that your insurance company is no longer required by law to offer your son or daughter a reduced premium.

If you have or are about to move to another community or canton in Switzerland, this is another good opportunity to make sure you are not paying more than you need to. This is because basic health coverage and premiums vary considerably depending on where in the country you live in.

Photo: Depositphotos

Higher service levels

While Swiss law regulates the coverage of basic insurance, the difference between insurers often lies in the level of their service. Some of the least expensive insurers tend to outsource administrative work to their policyholders. Manually typing up health expenses and mailing in receipts is not everyone’s cup of tea – but biting the bullet could give you a much lower premium.

Many Swiss health insurers now offer online account management, health advice by chat, and even proprietary smartphone apps for scanning of invoices. These digital tools could save you a lot of time at a relatively low cost.

Switching basic health insurance providers

It’s important to understand that there are different procedures and deadlines for the termination of basic and supplementary insurance policies.

If you are hoping to switch insurance providers without having to pay penalty fees, you must terminate your basic health insurance policy and at the same time sign up for a new one before November 30, 2019. Your new policy will then come into effect on January 1, 2020.

Switching supplementary insurance plans

The termination of supplementary insurance plans depends on any contractual agreements written into the policy. Insurers can define different notice periods which you need to adhere to. Also, you may be obliged to pay termination fees.

If you are unsure whether you can benefit from switching health insurance provider, get in touch with an independent insurance advisory such as Expat Savvy for an expert assessment. Expat-Savvy helps many new and established expats to get the best deal on their Swiss health insurance. The insurance consultancy company prides itself on its ongoing relationships with clients, spanning from their first medical insurance to optimising their premiums, specialized retirement plans, and everything in between.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Expat Savvy.

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HEALTH

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
 

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