The standard of healthcare in Switzerland is excellent, and most residents are satisfied with the level of treatment and access. The Swiss system is universal but unique in its approach.
Health insurance in Switzerland is compulsory for all residents, but it isn’t government-funded like in the UK or employer-sponsored like in the US. As a result, private insurance providers in Switzerland aren’t allowed to refuse anyone coverage.
Waiting times are short, expats can choose where they'd like to be treated, and city doctors routinely speak English.
But even though expats can count on high-quality care, they can also count on monthly premiums, co-payments and deductibles.
Public hospitals in Switzerland
Public hospitals in Switzerland have high standards and modern facilities. Basic health insurance covers most treatment at public facilities although patients may have to pay extra for some specialist treatments.
Private hospitals in Switzerland
There isn’t a huge difference between standards at public and private hospitals in Switzerland. The main advantage of private hospitals is that waiting times are shorter and some hospitals specialise in particular treatments. But treatment costs at private hospitals are much higher and may only be covered by more comprehensive health insurance policies.
Health insurance in Switzerland
Expats will need to organise their own health insurance within three months of arriving – so research and preparation are important if they aren’t familiar with the process.
The government determines which treatments private providers should cover in their basic health insurance packages. This includes most medical treatment and hospitalisation costs, but dentistry and supplementary costs such as private rooms aren’t usually covered. Expats interested in these extras will need to look at more comprehensive packages.
Insurance premiums are based on where someone stays, rather than their individual income, so they vary immensely. Expats should also be aware that they will need to arrange health insurance for their family members separately.
Medicines and pharmacies in Switzerland
Pharmacies in Switzerland are clearly marked with signs saying ‘Apotheke' or ‘Pharmacie’, depending on where they are. They’re usually open during normal working hours but there are emergency pharmacies which are open 24/7.
Expats shouldn’t have trouble getting most medicines, and pharmacies can order in products they don’t have or suggest alternatives.
Emergency services in Switzerland
In the event of a medical emergency, expats should dial 144 for an ambulance.
►See Education and Schools in Switzerland for more on caring for your family
Are you an expat living in Switzerland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Switzerland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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