Private: Healthcare in Switzerland

Understanding the Swiss Healthcare System as an Expat

When moving to a new country, one of the most important aspects to consider is the healthcare system. As an expat in Switzerland, it is crucial to understand how the Swiss healthcare system works and how you can access the necessary health services. Switzerland is known for its high-quality healthcare system, but navigating it can be a bit complex for newcomers. In this article, we will provide an overview of the Swiss healthcare system, focusing on how expatriates can access health services.

The Swiss Healthcare System: An Overview

The Swiss healthcare system is often regarded as one of the best in the world. It is based on a combination of public and private healthcare providers, ensuring that all residents have access to high-quality medical services. The system is funded through mandatory health insurance, which is required for all residents, including expatriates.

Health Insurance in Switzerland

In Switzerland, health insurance is compulsory for all residents, regardless of their nationality or employment status. This means that as an expat, you will be required to have health insurance coverage from the day you arrive in the country. The Swiss healthcare system operates on the principle of solidarity, where everyone contributes to the overall cost of healthcare.

There are two types of health insurance plans available in Switzerland: basic health insurance (LaMaladie) and supplementary health insurance (LaComplémentaire). Basic health insurance is mandatory and covers essential medical services, while supplementary health insurance provides additional coverage for services not covered by the basic plan.

It is important to note that health insurance premiums in Switzerland can be quite high compared to other countries. The cost of insurance varies depending on factors such as age, health condition, and the insurance provider. As an expat, it is advisable to research different insurance providers and compare their coverage and premiums before choosing a plan.

Accessing Healthcare Services

Once you have obtained health insurance in Switzerland, you can access healthcare services through a variety of providers. The Swiss healthcare system offers a wide range of medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. As an expat, you have the freedom to choose your healthcare provider, but it is important to ensure that they accept your insurance coverage.

When seeking medical care, it is common practice in Switzerland to first visit a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor. The GP acts as a gatekeeper and provides primary care services. They will assess your condition and refer you to specialists if necessary. It is important to note that some insurance plans may require a referral from a GP before covering specialist consultations or treatments.

In case of emergencies, Switzerland has a well-developed emergency medical system. The emergency number to dial is 144, and the operators will dispatch the appropriate medical assistance. It is important to keep in mind that emergency services can be quite expensive, so it is advisable to have comprehensive health insurance coverage to avoid any unexpected financial burdens.

Pharmacies and Medications

Pharmacies in Switzerland play a crucial role in the healthcare system. They are responsible for dispensing medications and providing advice on over-the-counter drugs. Prescription medications can only be obtained with a valid prescription from a Swiss doctor.

It is important to note that medications in Switzerland can be quite expensive. However, the cost is partially covered by health insurance, depending on the type of medication and your insurance plan. It is advisable to check with your insurance provider regarding the coverage of prescription medications.

Healthcare for Expatriates

As an expatriate in Switzerland, it is essential to ensure that you have adequate health insurance coverage. Here are some key points to consider:

Registering for Health Insurance

Upon arrival in Switzerland, you are required to register for health insurance within three months. It is advisable to start the process as soon as possible to avoid any penalties or delays in accessing healthcare services. You can choose from various insurance providers, so it is recommended to compare different plans and select the one that best suits your needs.

Choosing the Right Insurance Plan

When selecting a health insurance plan, consider factors such as coverage, premiums, deductibles, and the reputation of the insurance provider. It is also important to check if the plan includes supplementary coverage for services such as dental care, alternative medicine, or maternity care, depending on your specific needs.

Understanding Insurance Coverage

Before seeking medical care, it is crucial to understand the coverage provided by your insurance plan. Familiarize yourself with the list of covered services, co-payments, and any limitations or exclusions. This will help you make informed decisions and avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.

Language Barrier

Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Depending on the region you reside in, the local language may differ. It is important to ensure that you can communicate effectively with your healthcare providers. If you are not fluent in the local language, consider seeking assistance from a translator or interpreter to avoid any misunderstandings during medical consultations.

International Health Insurance

If you are planning to stay in Switzerland for a limited period or frequently travel outside the country, you may consider obtaining international health insurance. International health insurance provides coverage both in Switzerland and abroad, giving you peace of mind wherever you go. It is advisable to consult with insurance experts to determine the best option for your specific situation.


Navigating the Swiss healthcare system as an expat may seem overwhelming at first, but with the right information and preparation, you can access high-quality healthcare services in Switzerland. Remember to obtain health insurance coverage, choose the right insurance plan, and familiarize yourself with the healthcare providers in your area. By understanding the Swiss healthcare system and taking the necessary steps, you can ensure your well-being and peace of mind during your stay in Switzerland.