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HEALTH INSURANCE

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
Time to change your health insurance coverage is fast approaching. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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

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For members

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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