Expats Living in Switzerland Equals Headache When It Comes to Health Cover…


Switzerlandsign_001One of the most beautiful countries people can move to as an Expat is the country of Switzerland.  Just about everything I read and see online or in special TV programs makes Switzerland one of the top ten countries I would most like to visit.  I have friends who travel to Zürich several times per month for business and every time I chat with them about their journeys they simply rave about all the good things they find when staying in country.  Yes Switzerland for those who have the opportunity to move there for extended periods of time are certainly lucky.

Once expats have put together their list of must have items for their journey there is one item on the list that must always be a consideration and that is securing International Health Insurance Cover.  For the most part this is a required necessity while living abroad.  Switzerland is kind of unique when it comes to health care in that they have a system that falls somewhat in line with our health care system here in the United States.  And like the health insurance market in the States in Switzerland they too use the private health insurers to deliver the needed coverage.  But what a headache this can cause for an International Expat living abroad.  Basically just about every country has their own set of demons as to how they look at health care within their borders and how they provide solutions to address it.  Switzerland certainly has their own way of dealing with Access to Care but the good news is the level of care provided is excellent.

If you plan to live within the country of Switzerland for more than 3 months you will be required to insure each one of your family members with at least a policy that covers their basic requirements.  Healthcare in Switzerland is actually very good with moderate to excellent access to care.  The Swiss healthcare system is not tax based nor is it financed by employers.  Their system is completely supported by the individual contributions (monthly premiums) into health insurance schemes.  Everyone living in Switzerland must have basic health and accident cover AND it must be purchased through a authorized insurer.  Then you can add supplementary coverage to your basic if you so desire.  It is important to note that Switzerland has one of the largest private sectors in the world.

What if I have an International Plan Already?

This is a great question because most expats that are outbound from their home countries make arrangements for Global Cover while abroad.  Those who are outbound from the United States most certainly have coverage choices and in addition they have to worry about issues related to the Affordable Care Act here at home even when they live abroad.  It is important to note that if you move to Switzerland and if you have already purchased International health insurance coverage it will not be accepted as far as they are concerned.  It will not meet their requirements as defined.  So what do you do?

Well a lot will depend on your plans for other travel.  If you plan to move to Switzerland and live there from more than 3 months and never travel outside their borders then you will have to abide by their country’s requirements.  But, if you plan to travel anywhere outside the borders of Switzerland then you will have NO Coverage.  You will need to MAINTAIN a global plan such as the GeoBlue Xplorer or one of the Cigna Global plans.  If you are being sent to Switzerland for work then you will most surely want to talk to your employer about this situation as in many cases you will end up carrying both the Basic Swiss cover AND a global plan as well.

What about an exemption?

When you move to Switzerland they give you up to 3 months to enroll into Swiss health insurance.  However, you can apply for an exemption.

It is important to point out that I am not a legal counsel, of course, and if a person or company wants to make sure about the exact regulatory mandate they should consult a lawyer in Switzerland, but I can tell you that in my experience, the decision to “exempt” you is usually made at the canton level.  Each canton has its own form that you can fill out and you submit it and see if they approve it.

There’s no way to anticipate if your global insurance will pass or not.  It’s also up to the expat/student to fill out the form and try to see if the global policy would be accepted.  Sometimes this happens and all is good.  It is very common to buy the inexpensive basic policies just for the process and then maintain use the more comprehensive coverage when needed.  It is not that companies like GeoBlue Xplorer Premier and Cigna Global will not pay the claims because they will!!  They will even work direct with the provider to make direct payment whenever possible.  The requirement to purchase at least the basic coverage is a Swiss requirement that can only be resolved through and exemption – which by the way is worth pursuing.

I want to travel to other places while living in Switzerland

This is probably not surprising in that most people who move to a place like Switzerland they might also want to see more of Europe while abroad.  After all Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein all border Switzerland.  And the rest of Europe is just a quick train ride or short plane flight away.  Please note that if you choose to only purchase the Swiss coverage then your Swiss insurance WILL NOT cover you outside of Switzerland so when you travel you will need to make other arrangements during those short-term trips.  If you decide to maintain your global expat coverage while in country you can pretty much come and go as you please with no worries and feel safe that your global expat policy will already include important benefits such as Emergency Medical Evacuation.

All of this can be confusing so if you have questions please feel free to reach out to me with your questions at “sales@individualhealth.com” or give me a call (307) 690-0427.  I work daily with only International clients that are moving around the globe for both work and pleasure.  Each country presents its own challenges and in many cases we are an excellent resource for you.  When you are ready to apply for cover prior to departure we are here to assist you through the process.  Take a moment and visit our International Health Insurance for Expats and remember… I am here to help!

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