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.

For members


REMINDER: Key tips on changing your Swiss health insurance as deadline nears

If you are unsatisfied with your health insurance plan or want to take out a cheaper one, you need to act fast — the November 30th deadline is fast approaching. Here are a few last-minute tips.

REMINDER: Key tips on changing your Swiss health insurance as deadline nears

What’s happening?

Switzerland’s world-class healthcare system comes with a price, but while most options are costly, choosing the right plan can save you hundreds of francs per month. 

This is all the more relevant now, as the cost of premiums for the compulsory (KVG / LaMal) coverage is set to increase by 6.6 percent on average in 2023 — and in some cantons by even more.

For instance, 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.

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

Rates are set by the cantons, but while changing your place of residence just to get a cheaper health insurance may not be a viable option, in many cases, you can get the same benefits as you currently get for a lower price just by changing your carriers — not cantons.

However, f you want to switch your provider for 2023, you must do this by November 30th.

This can be the case particularly for foreigners in Switzerland, who may have come to the country and been signed up for an insurance plan – for instance through recommendations from friends or workmates – without properly knowing the ins and outs of the healthcare system. 

The following guide provides info on how to change your healthcare provider, but keep in mind that if you want to cancel your current plan and switch to another one, you must notify your carrier, by registered post, by November 30th at the latest.

However, there is a certain process you must follow if you are changing carriers.

This is what you should do

If you do decide to part ways with your current provider, make sure you have another policy in its place before making the switch. Health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland for every resident, whether Swiss or foreign, so you can’t be without coverage even for a short period of time.

As stated above, the insurance carrier must receive your termination letter, sent by registered mail, no later than November 30th.

You must attach proof that you have taken out a new insurance policy.

Any outstanding monthly premiums must be paid before you can make the switch.

You can use these templates in German, French, or Italian to create the cancellation letter.

READ MORE: How to change your health insurance carrier in Switzerland 

How do you find a cheaper plan?

Hopefully, you have done so already, but if not, you must really hurry to get this done in the few days that you have left.

These are the less expensive alternatives:

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 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.

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 other exceptions, such as eye exams and annual gynecological check-ups.

Total savings could range between 15 and 20 percent. 

Increase your deductible

In Switzerland, the deductible (franchise) ranges from 300 to 2,500 francs.

The lower your deductible, the higher your premiums, and vice-versa.

If you are young, healthy, hardly ever get ill, and don’t take any expensive medications, then you can save substantially with the highest franchise.

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

Pay the premiums in one lump sum

Most insurance carriers will give you a 2-percent reduction if you pay your premiums upfront rather than on monthly basis.

So if you want to keep your current plan, this may be a good cost-cutting option, provided you can pay the hefty amount in one lump sum.

Keep in mind that November 30th is the deadline not only for switching from one insurance carrier to another, but also for notifying your current company about the changes you want to make to your deductible or any other tweaks to your policy.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland