Supplemental health insurance is an extra policy that you can take out while applying for health insurance in Switzerland. This insurance allows for more flexibility and care options, including for instance better accommodation while in hospital. This system of insurance is not mandatory but can bring greater benefits than basic insurance.
What is supplemental health insurance?
Supplemental health insurance is a form of insurance that allows for better access and benefits while using healthcare in Switzerland. These policies are not mandatory but can be taken alongside your basic health insurance to “upgrade” your level of care. Supplemental insurance is paid on top of basic health insurance, typically to the same provider.
Do I need supplemental health insurance to live in Switzerland?
Although supplementary insurance is not mandatory, it is well worth exploring what is on offer, since this types of insurance guarantees you more flexibility, better facilities and broader coverage when seeking medical help. This can range from a more comfortable room in hospital, cover for treatment from dentists, greater access to products from pharmacies, and quality of life benefits such as gym membership discounts.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are reaching the age of retirement, it is highly recommended that you consider getting supplemental insurance.
How do I pay for Swiss supplemental health insurance?
If you have chosen to take out supplemental health insurance, your payments will be made on top of your basic cover. Most insurance providers combine their supplemental health insurance with basic insurance to make a single package. Bear in mind that insurance premiums will be higher if you choose supplemental health insurance, and the amount of deductible you will be able to have may be restricted.
Swiss supplemental health insurance providers
The Swiss system of health insurance has over 50 regulated providers who will be happy to tailor a medical care package suited to your needs. All insurance providers will have some form of supplemental insurance available. Some of the most prominent are:
- Groupe Mutuel
International health insurance companies in Switzerland
The following companies offer health insurance policies for expats and internationals in Switzerland:
- GeoBlue (for US citizens)
Benefits of supplemental health insurance in Switzerland
In comparison to basic health insurance, supplemental health insurance comes with a number of additional benefits, many of which can be chosen at will, so that you can tailor your health insurance to suit your needs. This means that your premiums could be cheaper if you choose fewer benefits, or more expensive if you would like more comprehensive cover.
National coverage of health insurance
Unlike basic health insurance, supplemental insurance automatically allows you to be treated anywhere in Switzerland. Basic health insurance only allows for treatment in your county (canton). Supplemental insurance extends this coverage to all 26 cantons. This is especially useful if you live in a city in Switzerland and require medical treatment while skiing in the mountains, as transport by the emergency services can be expensive.
Free choice of hospital ward with supplemental insurance in Switzerland
One of the main differences between supplemental insurance and basic insurance is the ability to choose the size and quality of your accommodation while in hospital. The system allows for the costs of larger, more private rooms to be covered as part of your health insurance. Having a private room can lead to further benefits such as a wider choice of meals or onsite facilities.
Semi-private and Private wards in Swiss hospitals
A semi-private ward is where you share a room with one other person during your stay in a Swiss hospital. A private ward is where you have a room to yourself. If you choose general admission to a hospital, you would usually share a room with four or five people.
Having a semi-private or private room is a more secluded experience and affords you greater privacy than general admission. Private rooms occasionally have exclusive facilities such as patient transfer services and spa treatments.
Alternative medicine coverage with Swiss supplemental health insurance
As well as conventional treatments, supplemental insurance also offers a wider range of alternative medicine, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and herbal remedies.
Although some herbal remedies and acupuncture sessions are available with basic health insurance, supplemental health insurance gives the option for additional treatments to be covered, including Osteopathy, Homeopathy and Kinesiology.
Greater coverage of emergencies abroad
Supplemental insurance can also allow for greater flexibility if you are injured abroad. Unlike basic health insurance, which only covers medical treatments up to twice the price of a similar procedure in Switzerland, supplemental insurance covers the entire treatment abroad regardless of cost. This is in order to add greater security when travelling for your holidays and can be highly beneficial should you get injured in a country with high medical costs.
Preventative medicine and gym membership in supplemental Swiss health insurance
Supplemental health insurance in Switzerland also gives you access to more forms of preventative medicine. Preventative medicine refers to benefits that promote someone’s mental and physical health. Services can range from regular medical check-ups to subsidies on gym memberships. However, do bear in mind that these benefits are only available if you are seen to use them regularly. For example, some insurers make sure that you go to the gym at least 90 times a year in order to qualify.
Dental insurance in Switzerland
Basic health insurance in Switzerland is only able to cover treatment by a dentist if the work is necessary as part of another medical treatment. Dental insurance can be paid for as part of supplemental health insurance. This allows for routine check-ups, fillings and orthodontic treatments to be paid directly by health insurance.
Whereas basic health insurance only offers psychotherapy if it is proven to be effective and necessary in treating an illness, supplemental insurance allows you to access the treatment more freely, with the permission of your doctor.
Glasses and contact lenses
If you need glasses, you may need to consider making the cost of glasses part of your supplemental health insurance. This type of insurance covers the cost of essential reading and glasses for driving, as well as regular eyesight check-ups. Bear in mind that this typically does not cover sunglasses or designer glasses.
Applying for Swiss supplemental health insurance
Unlike basic health insurance, insurers are not required to accept all or any applications for supplementary health insurance. Therefore, while applying for supplemental insurance, your provider might have specific criteria around health history and medical conditions. Should you have previous medical conditions or be close to retirement, it is likely that your premiums will be higher.
Eligibility criteria for supplemental health insurance in Switzerland
While applying for supplemental health insurance in Switzerland, insurers will consider the following:
- Previous medical history, such as previous conditions and illnesses
- Current medical conditions
- Your age
- Your canton of residence
Switching supplemental health insurance in Switzerland
Switching supplemental health insurance is more complex than switching basic health insurance. In order to switch providers, you must inform your previous insurer before the grace period as listed in your contract. This can be up to three months before the traditional November deadline to switch basic health insurance.
Be sure to confirm your new insurance package before cancelling your old one, as there is still a chance you might be rejected by your new insurer and therefore lose cover.
What do you need in order to switch Swiss supplemental health insurance?
Once you have selected your new insurance provider, they will contact your old provider to let them know that a switch might happen. What you need to provide is:
- A signed and agreed contract with your new insurers
- A cancellation letter from your old insurer or price comparison website
- Your old health insurance card
Once you have a cancellation letter, send it to your old insurer before the insurer's deadline but after your new policy is accepted. From January 1 of the next year, you will receive your new cover and start paying your new rate.
Health insurance card in Switzerland
Once you have been accepted by your insurer, they will provide you with a health insurance card. The health insurance card is used to pay for medical treatment and to inform medical staff of what insurance you have. The card is also where you will find your social security number, which is the number you will use in order to access social security in Switzerland.