health insurance expats switzerland

Health Insurance Guide for Expats in Switzerland

Is health insurance compulsory for expats living in Switzerland? Find useful information about Swiss compulsory health insurance and exemptions in this guide.

In Switzerland, basic health insurance is compulsory for all residents. As an expat, you are generally obligated to take out a Swiss health insurance policy within 3 months of taking up residence in Switzerland. But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Compulsory health insurance

Getting insured by a Swiss health insurance provider is compulsory for anyone living in Switzerland. This obligation extends to all accompanying members of your family living in Switzerland with you. Compulsory Swiss health insurance provides solid, basic coverage for medical expenses both in Switzerland and when you travel abroad. Read the guide to coverage provided by compulsory health insurance to find out what is covered.

Compulsory health insurance: Exemptions

In some cases, you may be able to get an exemption from compulsory health insurance. Exemptions may apply in the following situations:

  • You work in Switzerland but live in a neighboring country. As a cross-border worker, you can choose between compulsory Swiss health insurance or equivalent health insurance from an insurance provider in your country of residence. If you take out Swiss health insurance, you must complete a process which entitles you to coverage for all medical treatment in your country of residence rather than just the standard, temporary travel health insurance for medical emergencies.
  • You are a foreign student and spend the majority of your time in Switzerland, but are covered with equivalent health insurance from an insurer in your home country. If you do not have equivalent health insurance, you can take out foreign student insurance from a Swiss insurer. This is cheaper than regular Swiss compulsory health insurance but provides the same coverage. You can find more information in the guide to health insurance for foreign students.
  • You live in Switzerland but work in a European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member country. In this case you will need to get insured in the country you work in.
  • You reside in Switzerland but receive a pension from an EU or EFTA country. You do not work or earn an income in Switzerland. In this case too, you will need to get health insurance coverage in the country from which you receive your pension.
  • You are employed by an international organization, embassy or consulate. In this case, you can receive an exemption from compulsory Swiss health insurance.

3-month grace period

You will have a 3-month grace period, starting from the time you register as a resident in Switzerland, during which you will have to get compulsory health insurance coverage. This gives you time to find the best policy for your needs. The comprehensive and unbiased compulsory health insurance comparison tool on makes finding the most affordable compulsory insurance policies easy.

Your insurance policy covers you retrospectively, back to the date on which you became an official resident. You must also pay premiums retrospectively from the month on which you became a resident. If you incur medical expenses during the grace period before you take out a policy, you can claim reimbursement for these expenses (minus the deductible and coinsurance) after you get insured.

If you fail to meet the 3-month deadline, you will automatically be assigned a health insurance policy by the relevant administration, and this may be an expensive policy. Taking the time to choose and apply for the compulsory health insurance policy of your choice is recommended.

Although all compulsory health insurance policies provide the same government-mandated coverage, there are major differences in the premiums charged by different insurers. There are also differences in their customer service and the way in which benefits are paid out. You can also choose between standard policies and managed-care policies, with policies based on managed care being more affordable. Taking a moment to compare compulsory health insurance policies can save you a lot of money.

Compulsory vs. supplemental health insurance

One point of confusion for many expats is the fact that Swiss health insurance providers offer both compulsory health insurance and supplemental health insurance policies. Many insurers market combined compulsory and supplemental health insurance policies as package deals, sometimes presenting both as a single product. It is important to understand the difference because you are only required to take out compulsory health insurance. Supplemental health insurance coverages can be beneficial in some cases, but they are not required by law. Although insurers sometimes market both types of insurance in combination, you will always receive separate policies for compulsory and supplemental health insurance. You can compare supplemental health insurance policies using the supplemental health insurance comparison and the supplementary hospital insurance comparison.

More information:
Swiss compulsory health insurance comparison
Swiss supplemental health insurance comparison
Swiss supplemental hospital insurance comparison
New to Switzerland: A saving guide
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