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HEALTH INSURANCE

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?

Whether an insurance carrier in Switzerland can turn you down because of chronic illnesses depends on the kind of coverage you are seeking.

Reader question: Can Swiss health insurance exclude me if I have pre-existing conditions?
Example of a card for compulsory health insurance. Photo by Federal Office of Public Health

Say you are newly arrived in Switzerland and — as health insurance is compulsory here — you have to take out a policy.

Or maybe you are a permanent resident who wants to switch carriers.

But to complicate matters, you have some pre-existing health issues and are worried no insurance company will want to take  you on.

What can you expect?

Switzerland’s universal health care system is based on every resident’s obligation to buy a basic health insurance policy, which covers —though subject to annual deductibles and co-pays — all emergencies, doctor’s visits, prescribed medical treatments and tests, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutritional counselling, speech therapy, mental health therapy, chiropractic therapy, rehabilitation therapy, and medications.

Basically, anything your doctor orders, the insurance will pay for, with the exception of experimental drugs or treatments which have not been approved in Switzerland.

As this insurance (KVG in German  and LaMal in French and Italian) is mandatory for anyone living in Switzerland, any carrier you choose must provide you with this coverage — regardless of your medical history, age, or nationality.

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

The premiums will vary depending on your canton of residence and your age, but will never be based on your health status. And, under the Swiss law, insurance companies can’t make profit from KVG / LaMal or set their own costs — premiums are determined by the Federal Office of Public Health and are the same for all carriers.

This system is not cheap, but at least you can be sure that you will not be denied health care you need, or that it won’t be covered by your insurance.

However, in addition to the compulsory insurance, many people in Switzerland also take out supplemental policies that cover perks such alternative medicine treatments, glasses and contact lenses, medical accessories and devices, wellness services such as massage therapy, and psychotherapy performed by therapists without medical training. 

READ MORE: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Unlike the compulsory coverage, supplemental policies are far more restrictive; this is where insurance companies can — and do — cherry-pick their clients.

And this is where your medical history and current health are taken into account before coverage is given or withheld.

While you are not required to fill out a health questionnaire for the compulsory insurance (since you can’t be denied coverage under any circumstances), you will be asked to do so when applying for the supplementary one.

You will have to answer (truthfully) questions about any medical conditions and history of repeated treatments, including current ones.

If you are relatively healthy and have no chronic illnesses requiring regular treatments, you will not have a problem getting supplemental coverage.

But if you have health issues, you will be probably denied coverage. Or, you will be accepted, but only if your existing medical problems will be excluded from coverage.

This is an example of a typical health questionnaires for supplemental insurance coverage.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

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For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

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