The cost of healthcare in Switzerland is relatively high. The costs of a hospital stay or emergency medical treatment can very quickly reach five-digit or even six-digit figures, in Swiss francs.
If you live in Switzerland, you are (presumably) already covered by Swiss compulsory health insurance. But what about guests visiting you from outside of Switzerland?
Who qualifies as a guest?
In Switzerland, a guest is defined as someone who temporarily stays in the country for a vacation, to visit family or friends, in the course of their studies, or on a business trip. Guests are not registered as residents in Switzerland and have a permanent residence in another country.
Guests visiting you from an EU or EFTA country
If your guest is a resident of a European Union (EU) or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member country and holds a European Health Insurance Card, they can present their card to benefit from much the same conditions and costs available to Swiss compulsory health insurance policyholders.
However, insurance from their home country only covers expenses in Switzerland in the event of unanticipated medical emergencies. If your guest has a preexisting condition and thus comes to Switzerland knowing that they may need to receive medical treatment here, they may forfeit insurance coverage.
Guests visiting you from a non-EU or EFTA country
Whether or not your guests from non-EU or EFTA member countries will be covered against healthcare costs while in Switzerland will depend on their health insurance policy, if they have one. Some health insurance policies provide a certain amount of coverage for healthcare costs incurred outside of the policyholder’s country of residence, but many do not.
In some cases, the limits on coverage or the maximum sum insured by some foreign health insurance policies may not be nearly enough to cover Swiss healthcare costs. Consider recommending that your guest check into the insurance coverage provided by their policy ahead of their visit.
Guest health insurance: an alternative way to make sure your guests are properly insured
If your guests do not have sufficient health insurance to cover them during their stay in Switzerland, you could consider taking out guest health insurance ahead of their visit.
This insurance is similar to the health insurance you receive with certain travel insurance policies, and covers both unexpected illnesses and accidents. A new policy must be taken out for each visiting guest.
Benefits of guest health insurance
Getting this insurance coverage can help protect your guests’ finances in the event that a medical emergency occurs during their stay in Switzerland.
Policies typically include coverage for hospital stays, medicines and ambulance transportation. Additional benefits may include contributions towards medical aid rentals, prosthetics (in the event of an accident) and home-based care.
Your guest can take out a policy without having to take a medical examination. This is practical because it saves time and effort on your guests’ part.
Many policies cover the cost of repatriation following a medical emergency. If your guest has health insurance in their home country, this coverage can help them return home to take advantage of their health insurance.
Disadvantages of guest health insurance
Coverage is typically somewhat limited. Guest insurance policies generally come with a maximum sum insured of just 50,000 francs. That is enough coverage to get a Schengen visa, and it will normally be enough to cover treatment for most accidents in Switzerland. But it won’t likely fully cover the full cost of treatment in the event of a major medical emergency (treatment after a major accident, organ transplants, cancer treatment).
Deductibles are fairly high. Typically, the deductible for a guest insurance policy applies on a per-claim basis. On most policies the deductible is 200 francs. Some policies have a higher deductible for those above a certain age (500 francs for those 60-years-old or older, for example).
As with many health insurance policies, there are usually age limits dictating who can apply. Guests above the age of 66 may only be eligible for policies with general ward hospital coverage and not private or semi-private ward coverage. You will be hard-pressed to find an insurer that will issue a guest health insurance policy to someone above the age of 80.
An exception to all three of these rules is the Guest Care insurance offered by Sanitas. This policy has no maximum sum insured and no deductible, so all costs are covered in full. The "General" version of this policy is available to people of all ages.
In every case, pre-existing conditions are generally excluded from insurance coverage - as is the case with all supplementary health insurance policies. If an illness is caused by a longstanding health condition, your guest may not be covered.
Terms are often limited to 3 months, although policies with 6-month terms are also available. In most cases, these terms will be sufficient to cover a visit. However, long-term guests may need to look into alternative insurance options, such as international health insurance.
How much does guest insurance cost?
As with most supplementary health insurance policies, premiums are based on the age of the policyholder and the benefits they provide. Premiums can be under 150 francs per month for a guest under 18 years of age who is content with general ward hospital coverage. An elderly person (above 61) who prefers the comfort of private room hospital treatment may pay premiums nearing 800 francs per month.
Where can I get guest insurance?
Most Swiss health insurance providers make guest insurance policies available. Visana, CSS, SWICA, Helsana and Sanitas, among others, all offer guest insurance. However, these are normally underwritten by a third-party insurance provider.
The guest insurance policies offered by many Swiss health insurers are underwritten by Allianz Global Assistance, Europ Assistance or the Europäische Reisevesicherungs AG.
Is guest insurance worth it?
With the exception of the Guest Care policy offered by Sanitas, the coverage provided by guest insurance is quite skimpy compared to the coverage you get with Swiss compulsory health insurance and accident insurance. Naturally this begs the question of whether or not getting guest insurance is worth the price.
If your prospective guest does not already have health insurance which covers medical care in Switzerland, you could suggest that they look into getting travel insurance with coverage for medical expenses. The premiums for this coverage may well be lower than those you pay for Swiss guest insurance, and the coverage provided may be similar.
Some credit cards provide coverage for medical emergencies abroad when you use them to pay for travel expenses. In some countries, it isn’t uncommon for credit cards to provide coverage well above 50,000 francs towards the cost of emergency medical treatment. Other benefits may include emergency medical evacuation, repatriation and even coverage for emergency dental care.
If your guest has a credit card, or is willing to get one, they could look into coverage provided. In the best case, they could get similar coverage to that provided by guest insurance at no extra cost.
Where the above options are not available, or when existing coverage does not meet Schengen visa requirements, getting guest insurance can provide you and your guests with a lot of peace of mind. If your guest plan to take advantage of the many winter sport and extreme sport opportunities which Switzerland has to offer, making sure that they have sufficient coverage in case of an accident is almost a must.
Additionally, you may want to check into whether your household insurance includes coverage for your guests personal property. Unfortunately, personal liability insurance for guests is not currently available in Switzerland.
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