Having health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland, and this holds true for foreign students completing part of their education in the central-European country as well. For students on a tight budget who are not accustomed to Swiss prices, a look at the premiums charged for compulsory Swiss health insurance can be frightening.
In 2018, for example, a 20-year-old in Zurich would pay between CHF 434.90 and CHF 636.80 per month (depending on the insurer used) for standard compulsory health insurance with accident insurance and a CHF 300 deductible. Even the cheapest policies available (managed care with a CHF 2500 deductible) would still cost the same young adult between CHF 256.40 and CHF 382.50 per month – as shown by the moneyland.ch Swiss health insurance comparison.
Can foreign students avoid Swiss health insurance premiums?
Swiss laws governing health insurance allow foreign students to apply for an exemption from Swiss compulsory health insurance for stays of up to 6 years. But there is a catch: To qualify for an exemption, you must be covered by health insurance that provides equivalent coverage to that provided by compulsory Swiss health insurance (KVG/LAMal). Our guide to Swiss compulsory health insurance coverage provides a good starting point for a coverage comparison.
From the time you arrive in Switzerland, you have 3 months to either take out a Swiss compulsory health insurance policy or present your foreign insurance policy with equivalent coverage and get an exemption or. To apply for an exemption, a copy of your health insurance policy must be sent to the health office of the canton in which you reside.
Your application should include:
- A copy of your existing health insurance policy.
- A guarantee of equivalent coverage form signed by your current insurer (you can obtain this form from your cantonal health office).
- A copy of your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if or S1/E 109 certificate if you are insured in a European Union or European Freed Traded Association member country.
- A copy of your Swiss residence permit.
- A copy of your certificate of enrollment in a Swiss education institution.
- A copy of your employment contract (if you are a doctoral student).
- A copy of your internship contract (if you are an intern).
If you need to prove that you have health insurance before you can obtain a visa or resident permit for Switzerland, then you may need to apply for an exemption remotely from your home country.
Very few national insurance schemes and private insurance companies provide the high levels of health insurance coverage which you get with compulsory Swiss insurance. Even very generous insurance policies often place limitations on coverage outside of their country of issuance, so while coverage at home may be good, coverage for your stay in Switzerland may be inadequate.
Foreign student insurance from Swiss insurance providers
An alternative is provided by a number of Swiss insurance providers which offer special insurance policies designed specifically for foreign students.
These policies are accepted as a replacement for compulsory Swiss health insurance in most cantons, but the premiums charged are much lower than those charged for Swiss compulsory health insurance policies. Premiums for these policies are typically one-third of premiums charged for compulsory Swiss health insurance policies, with the cheapest foreign student health insurance policies being nearly ten times cheaper than the most expensive Swiss compulsory health insurance policies.
Academic Care from Groupe Mutuel, a major Swiss health insurance provider, are available to foreign students temporarily residing in Switzerland. Deductibles range from CHF 0 to CHF 500 (normal compulsory Swiss health insurance has deductibles between CHF 300 and CHF 2500) and no coinsurance payment (unlike Swiss standard compulsory insurance which has a 10% coinsurance payment – up to an annual cap of CHF 700).
This insurance provides the basic health insurance coverage which you receive from compulsory Swiss insurance. Plus, you get medical legal insurance of up to CHF 300,000 per case and life insurance in the form of a CHF 10,000 accidental death benefit. This insurance is generally offered through educational institutions. Only the cantons of Aargau and Neuchâtel do not accept Academic Care from Groupe Mutuel as a compulsory insurance substitute. Foreign students age 40 or younger are eligible. Premiums start at CHF 90 per month (highest deductible).
Studentpass policies from Swisscare, a Swiss provider of international health insurance, are another option. This student insurance can be applied for online and is accepted as a valid substitute for compulsory health insurance in 24 of the 26 cantons in Switzerland. Policies are underwritten by Swiss insurance company Europäische, a Helvetia subsidiary.
You can choose between a Standard plan, which provides the basic coverage you need to avoid compulsory health insurance, a Comfort plan (includes dental benefits and extended outpatient benefits) and the most expensive Premium plan which includes extended dental, outpatient, travel and optical benefits. You can choose a deductible of CHF 300,CHF 500 or CHF 1000. Swisscare lets you apply for this insurance directly online. Foreign students up to the age of 45 are eligible for this insurance. Premiums start at CHF 65 per month (highest deductible).
Swica Student Care. Major Swiss health insurance provider Swica offers foreign students Student Care policies with coverage equivalent to Swiss compulsory health insurance. You can choose a deductible of CHF 300 or CHF 500. Unlike compulsory health insurance you do not have to pay coinsurance. The ETH Zurich advertises premiums starting at CHF 91.70 per month (highest deductible).
Student health insurance from foreign insurers offered by Swiss brokers
Advisor Swiss Insurance offers student health insurance to foreign students at the University of Zurich, the University of Geneva, the University of St.Gallen and many more Swiss educational institutions. The insurance policy is underwritten by French insurance provider MGEN IB. It is accepted as a substitute for compulsory insurance in all Swiss cantons except for Aargau, Valais and Ticino. You can choose an annual deductible of CHF 300 or CHF 750. A CHF 1500 deductible applies to adults aged 32 or older. Premiums start at CHF 89 per month, with a discount when the full annual premium is paid up front.
Studentcover from Golden Care, a Swiss international health insurance provider, is an alternative for foreign students studying in the Canton of Vaud, where it is accepted as a compulsory health insurance equivalent. Polices are underwritten by British insurance provider Kane PCC Global Health and Accident Cell. This insurance features up to CHF 1 million, direct settlement of hospital and accident bills and coverage for hospital stays and outpatient treatment worldwide. A CHF 75 deductible applies to medical expenses on a per-claim basis. No deductible applies to claims for treatment of injuries resulting from accidents. International insurance coverage is broader than that provided by Swiss compulsory health insurance, which makes this an interesting option if you study part-time in Switzerland and part-time in other countries. Students up to 41 years of age are eligible. Premiums start at CHF 131 per month, with a discount when the full annual premium is paid up front.
Acceptance is not guaranteed
It is important to note that although these policies offer equivalent coverage to that provided by compulsory health insurance, they are in fact private, optional health insurance policies. That means that insurers are not obligated to accept your application (which they are obligated to do in the case of compulsory Swiss health insurance). If your health is poor or if for any other reason the insurer feels that you pose a high level of risk, your application may be denied.
Although these policies are issued by Swiss insurance companies, you will still have to apply for an exemption from compulsory health insurance at your cantonal health office as you would if you had a foreign insurance policy. The Swiss institution at which you study or your Swiss insurance provider may offer you assistance in going about this correctly.
If the health insurance which you receive from your government or insurance provider back home does not provide sufficient coverage for an exemption, foreign student health insurance from Swiss insurance providers offers an attractive and competitive option. The same holds true if you do not have health insurance ahead of moving to Switzerland to study.
Getting a policy designed specifically to replace the need for compulsory Swiss health insurance is the easiest and most certain way to cut the cost of obtaining the health insurance coverage you need. Being insured by a local insurance provider is advantageous in that you can file claims and get support directly in Switzerland. Swiss insurance companies are also subject to Swiss law, making arbitration more manageable.
On average, the premiums you pay for foreign student health insurance offered by Swiss insurance companies come to around one-third of the premiums which you pay for compulsory Swiss health insurance. Taking the time to apply for Swiss foreign student insurance and request an exemption from compulsory Swiss health insurance can save you hundreds or even thousands of Swiss francs per year.