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HEALTH

Switzerland and Italy to suspend cross-border train services indefinitely

Switzerland and Italy will halt all cross-border rail services from Thursday because train personnel do not have capacity to carry out COVID-19 safety checks.

Switzerland and Italy to suspend cross-border train services indefinitely
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Train staff are unable to carry out the checks, which have been ordered by the Italian government, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The move to suspend the trains is in place indefinitely and affects dozens of daily cross-border services, including 'EuroCity' connections and long-distance trains between Milan and Frankfurt. 

Regional trains that connect the two countries, which are used by thousands of cross-border workers are also affected.

Switzerland and neighbouring Italy, Germany and France had already reduced train services in November, but the Italian government introduced new requirements due to the surge in cases during the second wave of the pandemic.

That has resulted in the train services being halted as they were during the first wave back in spring.

Italy did not explicitly forbid train travel abroad, but its requirements — including for passengers’ temperatures to be measured — exceed the capacity of train personnel, an SBB spokeswoman told Reuters, leading to the decision to suspend the Swiss-Italian routes.

“Swiss Federal Railways trains will travel only to the country’s border to Italy,” SBB said.

Italy, France and Germany have also introduced new requirements meant to prevent skiers from travelling over the holidays to Switzerland and Austria, where resorts are due to be open for limited, locals-only skiing.

The SBB has promised to refund people who purchased tickets, reports 20 Minutes

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HEALTH INSURANCE

What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

Switzerland is late in issuing health insurance cards for new policy holders or those who have switched their providers at the end of 2022. What should you do if you need medical help before your new card arrives?

What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

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

You will have to present this card each time you seek medical treatment that is included under the obligatory KVG / LaMal scheme.

Residents of Switzerland are allowed to change their compulsory health insurance coverage from one provider to another by November 30th, to go into effect from January of the following year.

The sharp increase in the cost of the health insurance in 2023 — 6.6 percent on average, but higher in some cantons — has prompted many people to look for cheaper options and change their carriers.

READ MORE: Millions of Swiss residents switch health insurance amid rising costs

This massive switch has caused a backlog in the production of new insurance cards, which means that many policy holders have not yet received theirs.

The cards for all insurance carriers are issued by a subsidiary of the Santésuisse health insurance association, whose spokesperson, Manuel Ackermann, said that the delay is caused by the “extraordinarily large number” — three times as many as in an average year — of switches.

He did not specify how much longer is needed to issue and send out all the cards.

What should you do if you haven’t yet received your card?

Say you need medical help, or another situation arises where proof of health insurance is needed — for instance, if you are applying for a new job or registering in a new municipality.

In such cases, you can present the insurance certificate letter your carrier has issued when you took up your policy.

While not having an insurance card is a minor inconvenience in Switzerland, where such a certificate can be used in the interim, it could be more of a problem when travelling in the European Union.

Under normal circumstances, if you fall ill in the EU, 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.

However, absence of the card could mean that hospitals in those countries may not recognise the insurance certificate alone, and require Swiss residents to pay for medical care on the spot.

While not an ideal situation, you can submit the bill, along with all the required documents such as details of your treatment, to your insurer in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can my Swiss health insurance refuse to pay my medical bills?

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