Top three tips to consider when purchasing health insurance for expats in Switzerland


When it comes to health insurance most expats moving to Switzerland will need to purchase their own health insurance.


The problem for many however is that they may also want to secure health insurance that covers them in their home countries. In most cases, the health insurance you secure in Switzerland will not cover you at home. Your main solution would be to secure an international health insurance plan of which there are literally thousands of options.


A recent infographic published by Pacific Prime, one of the largest international health insurance brokers, covers a number of important things you may want to consider when comparing plans. From this infographic there are three aspects that the majority of expats find to be most important in helping them narrow down their choices. Here is a brief overview of each:



Aspect 1. The price


This is arguably the first and sometimes the most important aspect people will consider when looking at the various plans available to them. The concern here is that when looking at some health insurance plans, especially those designed to be international in nature is that they can be priced considerably higher than other options.


The main reason for this is largely due to the fact that they cover care worldwide where generally speaking costs are increasing, especially at private hospitals and clinics where most expats prefer to receive care.


That said, when comparing prices you will see a drastic range of prices, especially if you use an online aggregator tool that allows you to quickly and easily view and compare international health insurance plans.



Take for example the image below that shows a selection of plans for a 35 year-old male residing in Switzerland.



As you can see, plans range from USD 44/month to as much as USD 272/month (42.74 CHF to 264.29 CHF as of November 2, 2016). Why is the difference between plans so large? It primarily has to do with two major factors:


1. It's due to what the plans cover - International health insurance plans are developed to offer three levels of cover (more on that below), and as you add on more coverage the price will increase.


2. It's due to the presence of a deductible - Having a deductible (an amount you pay before your insurance plan will accept claims) can have an impact on your premium.


Therefore, when comparing plans online it is important to pay attention to these two factors as they do have a large impact on the premiums you see. Most insurance experts recommend that when looking at premiums it is important to also consider your deductible. Having a higher deductible means your premium will be lower, but you will need to pay more out of pocket when you receive care.


For some this is a tolerable risk, and others this is not a risk they are willing to take. In reality, it is up to you and your personal level of risk tolerance.


Aspect 2: The level of coverage


Before we look into this aspect, it is important to note here that this section refers to international health insurance plans, not those that meet compulsory coverage requirements in Switzerland. While there are international plans that meet the requirements, there are also a large number that do not. Instead, these are best suited to provide you cover while you are outside of Switzerland and the EU.


As you can see from the example image above, plans offer a varying level of cover. Most insurers will actually offer three main levels of coverage with their plans:


Inpatient only - Covers only care where you are admitted to the hospital by a doctor for a set amount of time, usually 24 hours or more.


Inpatient + outpatient - Will cover inpatient care plus care at clinics and doctor's offices as well as care where you do not need to stay in the hospital e.g., visiting the doctor for a checkup.


Inpatient + outpatient + maternity - Usually referred to as 'full cover' by insurers, these plans will cover the same as the two points above but will also usually add in maternity or other types of coverage such as dental and optical.


It should be noted here that at all levels of coverage you will see different limits associated with care. These will usually increase as you add more coverage and in some cases may even be limitless. Beyond that, other insurers will also offer extended coverage for things like dental and optical at an extra premium which means it pays to try playing around with the online quote sites in order to see how much your premium changes when you add different types of medical coverage.



Aspect 3: How you will use the plan


Finally, it is important to consider how you will use the plan. If for example, you have a pre-existing condition or will need to seek ongoing medical treatment this will be covered by your swiss plan, but it may not be covered by your international plan. Insurers will usually either outright deny coverage of pre-existing conditions while others will attach what's called a 'loading' which is an additional premium you need to pay to receive coverage for certain conditions. Others still may actually cover them outright, which means it really will pay to shop around a little here.



If you are looking for international health insurance coverage, Pacific Prime will definitely be able to offer you professional advice. With in-depth knowledge in the industry they can help you identify a solution that covers any expats.


This article was writen by: for is an independent consulting firm, so we have no business relationship to Pacific Prime Insurance.