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
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


Is the high cost of Swiss private health insurance worth it?

When it comes to hospitalisations, Switzerland has different levels of health insurance, which range from basic to premium, the latter being the private coverage. What is it and do you need it?

Is the high cost of Swiss private health insurance worth it?

The best way to describe these levels is to compare them to hotels: the basic insurance is a two or three-star hotel — it has everything you need but without any extras.

Private insurance, on the other hand, entitles you to a five-star accommodation.

Another way to look at it is this: basic insurance is like flying Economy: you get a seat and you get to your destination just fine, but your comfort level may be lacking. In First-Class however, you want for nothing.

The difference between the various options outlined here is the price. It’s not so much what you prefer, but what you can afford.

The basic insurance

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian —  is compulsory in Switzerland.  It is quite comprehensive and includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

It also covers accidents for those who do not have accident insurance through their workplace.

Basically, whatever the doctor orders is covered by KVG / LaMal, at least partially.

It also gives you the right to choose your doctor and see a specialist without a referral, unless you took out one of the cheaper and more restrictive versions of the plan.

Overall, however, you will be given a high level of care.

The only difference between this and plans mentioned below is that if you need to be hospitalised, you will likely be put in a room with several other patients.

READ MORE: What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

Complementary insurance

In addition to KVG / LaMal, some people also buy a complementary insurance, which offers them additional benefits that the basic plan doesn’t cover.

This includes all types of alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage, foot reflexology, osteopathy, Chinese medicine, and other treatments.

This type of insurance may also cover (though party) your dental costs, gym memberships and other perks, all of which are described in this article:

Acupuncture to rolfing: What your Swiss health insurance gets you (if you pay more)

It could also include a semi-private room in a hospital (depending on the kind of supplemental policy you purchase ), and the possibility to buy an upgrade to a private room.

Private insurance

This type of coverage, on top of the basic and supplemental one, is the very best you can have: the five-star hotel / First Class on the plane analogy mentioned above.

While with the basic insurance you can only be treated in public hospitals (that shouldn’t worry you though; they are very good in Switzerland), a private plan entitles you to be treated in a private clinic, where you will be put up in a private room and receive many other additional perks as well, such as choice of gourmet meals, slippers and bathrobe, and general pampering that you will most likely not get in a general ward of a public hospital.

Even more importantly, you can choose a clinic located outside your canton (which is not possible with KVG / LaMal, except for emergencies), and choose the doctor to treat you.

Given these choices, why would you not choose a private plan on top of your basic one?

In one word, cost.

As you know, premiums for the basic insurance are high, and especially so this year, when they rose by 6.6 percent on average and even more in some cantons.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why do Swiss healthcare premiums vary so much per canton?

This means that on average, and depending on your age, residence, and the deductible you chose, you probably pay between 300 and 500 francs a month for your KVG / LaMal.

Paying for private coverage on top of that will add another 500 francs at least to your monthly premium, and that is something that many people just can’t afford.

Whether or not this is feasible (and desirable) for you depends on whether you are happy flying Economy or absolutely want to sit in First Class.