swiss military service financial questions answered

Swiss Military Service: 13 Financial Questions Answered

Do you need to pay health insurance premiums while performing military service? Are you financially protected against injury or death? This guide explains

1. Do I still need compulsory health insurance?

During your military service term, you are covered by military insurance. If you will be serving for at least 60 days, you can put your Swiss compulsory health insurance on hold over the entire service period. Doing this can save you a lot of money on insurance premiums, especially if you are completing your full military service in one shot.

To take advantage of these savings you will have to send your health insurance provider a copy of your conscription notice at least 8 weeks before enlistment. After you enlist, a copy of your enlistment papers detailing your service must also be sent to your insurer. Military health insurance is provided by Swiss insurance provider Suva, and covers you throughout your term of service, even when you are on leave.

Military insurance covers medical treatment and hospital stays, home-based care, all necessary medicines, rehabilitation therapy and even rehabilitation aids. Additionally, you can request coverage for dental work, orthopedic shoes, hearing aids, homeopathic treatment and spa visits. When you receive treatment, you will need to inform the doctor or hospital that you are covered by military insurance, and fill out the required form. No deductible or co-insurance payments apply.

Important: Military health insurance only covers treatment in the general wards of hospitals with which the military has rate agreements. If you choose to receive treatment in other hospitals (like certain private clinics), or if you want private or semi-private ward accommodation, you will have to pay for these yourself. However, you will be reimbursed up to the cost of equivalent treatment in the general ward of the nearest eligible, military-insured hospital. Optional outpatient insurance or hospital insurance can help make up the difference.

Although your regular health insurance should automatically take effect after the “on hold” period, you would do well to contact your insurer before your military service ends to make sure that no action is required on your part. This will help you avoid an insurance gap upon termination of your military service.

2. Can I freeze my supplementary health insurance policies as well?

Some health insurance providers allow you to put your supplementary health insurance on hold to avoid paying premiums during military service. This benefit is generally limited to specific policies which provide identical coverage to what you get with military insurance (military insurance provides more coverage than compulsory health insurance).

For example, Sanitas allows you to freeze the following insurance products during your military service: Natura Comfort, Diversa Comfort, Jump, MobiJeunes, Family, Classic, Listed Hospitals KVG, Non-Listed Hospitals, Hospital Standard (Liberty), Salary KVG and Salary VVG for daily compensation of over CHF 100 per day.

3. Should I keep my accident insurance coverage?

In the active lifestyle that comes with military service, accidents are a well-founded worry. Whether you break your leg in an alpine troop ski maneuver or burn your fingers while doing KP, you will want to be properly insured. Thankfully, the military insurance covers accidents throughout your entire service term. Both injuries incurred in the line of duty and those you incur while you are on leave are covered.

Your occupational accident insurance is put on hold during your service, though your income compensation will not increase – meaning you won’t usually benefit from the absence of accident insurance salary deductions. If you receive accident insurance as a rider on your compulsory health insurance policy, this can be put on hold along with your policy. If, however, you work for an employer during your leave, you will be covered by that employer’s occupational accident insurance during your work hours.

4. Do I pay anything for military insurance?

As a recruit doing your obligatory service, you do not pay for military insurance. If you choose a military career as a fulltime profession, on the other hand, you do pay a premium because the military insurance replaces both compulsory health insurance and occupational accident insurance. Premiums are based on the premiums you would pay for identical coverage from health insurance providers, but you may receive reductions based on your salary. For example, if you earn a class 10 military salary, you can get a 48% premium reduction, while those with a class 17 salary pay the full premium.

5. Does military health insurance cover me during military refreshment courses?

Although you are covered by military insurance during a refreshment course (German: WK or Wiederholungskurs, French: CR or cours de repetition), you will not usually be able to freeze your compulsory health insurance during your service term because a typical refreshment course lasts just 3 weeks, rather than the 60 days required to put your compulsory health insurance premiums on hold. If, for some reason, you will be doing 60 days of service in a single refreshment course, you will be able to put your compulsory health insurance on hold for the length of your service to avoid paying premiums.

6. Do I receive a salary for my military service?

You receive a token payment from the military itself. The amount you receive depends on your rank, and ranges between just 4 francs for a recruit to 30 francs for a lieutenant general. You may be able to increase this “salary” by completing a military training course. For example, cadets who complete a kitchen chef apprenticeship, lower officer school or a Sergeant training program receive a payment of 23 francs per day.

7. Can I get compensation for income lost due to military service?

Yes, you do receive daily financial compensation for your military service. All employed workers in Switzerland pay a social security contribution of 0.45% towards military service (EO contributions), and this is passed on to service people in the way of lost income compensation. The minimum compensation which all recruits are entitled to is 62 francs per day, regardless of whether or not they had an income prior to service. This is paid out by the Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) office (AHV/IV – AVS/AI).

If you work for an employer, compensation equal to 80% of your salary is forwarded to you via your employer. Although this will never be less than the minimum compensation of 62 francs per day, the maximum compensation you can get is capped at 196 francs per day (80% of a 245-franc daily salary). This money is channeled through your employer, which is obligated to pass it on to you. Your employer can decide to pay you more than what the OASI/DI compensates, for example if 80% of your salary is above the maximum compensation of 196 francs per day, your employer may pay you 80% of your full salary. Of course, your employer may also choose to continue to pay you 100% of your salary, if they are exceptionally generous.

If you run your own business and have business-related obligations such as rentals or leases, you can receive additional compensation of up to 67 francs per day. This compensation also applies to farm owners (and their children who are actively employed in the family business).

8. Do I get extra compensation if I have children?

Yes. As a parent, you receive a child benefit of 20 francs per day per child (under 18 years old). However, the maximum compensation you can receive between the minimum or employment-based compensation and the child benefits is capped at 245 francs per day.

Additionally, if you have children under 16 years old which will need looking after during your military service (if you are a single parent, for example), you can receive compensation for caretaker expenses when you spend at least 20 francs per caretaking session, up to a maximum of 67 francs per day.

9. Do I receive income compensation as a voluntary conscript?

If you live abroad you are not required to perform military service in Switzerland, except in times of war. However, you may visit Switzerland to complete your military service on a voluntary basis as long as you meet certain requirements.

As a Swiss citizen residing abroad, you can register with the OASI/DI on a voluntary basis through the Swiss embassy. If you are registered with the OASI/DI and make required contributions, you will benefit from the same compensation paid out to service people residing in Switzerland when you come to Switzerland to complete your military service.

10. Must I pay taxes during my military service?

The payment which you receive directly from the military does not qualify as taxable income, so you do not need to pay tax on that money. However, the income compensation which you receive from the OASI/DI, which makes up the bulk of your military service compensation, must be taxed because it substitutes your regular, taxable income.

11. Can I get financial help while in the army?

If you are in a difficult financial situation and the basic compensation you receive from the military and OASI/DI does not cover your financial obligations, you may be eligible for financial help from the military social services. You will have to prove that you are in very real financial difficulty. This social service may, for example, help you to cover the rent on your home to help you avoid losing it due to having to perform military service. However, you will not receive financial help with paying debts, meeting installment payments or paying off a lease.

12. Can my employer let me go while I am on duty?

In Switzerland, employers are obligated to let you perform your military service. Having an employee slip away for several months (around a year if you complete your service in one shot) can leave many employers unimpressed. Even leaving for a three-week annual refreshment course can be a bone of contention. This is especially true if you work for foreign employers which are not familiar with the Swiss system or do not appreciate the benefits of military training.

To prevent employers writing you off and hiring a replacement while you are away, Swiss law prohibits employers from letting you go during your military service. If your service lasts more than 11 days, which it does in almost every case, the period during which your employer cannot lay you off extends to 4 weeks ahead of your service and 4 weeks after your service.

On the other hand you, as the employee, reserve the right to terminate your employment at any time, as long as you abide by the notice periods and conditions specified in your contract.

If you work outside of Switzerland – as a Swiss expatriate abroad who volunteers for Swiss military service, for example – you should understand that Swiss law will not apply to employers outside of Switzerland. The onus rests on you to work out a compromise with your employer.

13. Does my life insurance policy cover me during my military service?

If you have a life insurance policy from a life insurance provider in Switzerland, coverage will continue to apply during military service. This rule applies as long as Switzerland is not engaged in war (or warlike actions).

Whether you have private life insurance or not, the Swiss military insurance pays out a benefit to your dependents in the event of your death. If you pass away while in service, your children will receive a survivor’s pension equal to 15% of your insured income. Your dependent parents can receive a pension equal to 10 percent of your income, and your spouse or ex-spouse could receive up to 20 percent under certain circumstances.

If you are disabled during your service term, you will receive a pension equal to the government’s guide income for 50% employment. This guide is adjusted along with OASI pensions in keeping with consumer price indexes.

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Inpatient hospital insurance comparison

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