Many know Switzerland for its high standard of living and hail its healthcare system as one of the best in the world—in fact, it often ranks as one of the top 10 healthcare systems worldwide. However, while healthcare in Switzerland is universal, it is not free or public, which makes it very expensive.
How It Works
All residents pay for their own health insurance. Unlike other countries, healthcare does not receive funding from government taxes. Even children and retirees must have their own individual health plan. The Swiss government mandates that health insurance providers cannot reject applicants for any reason and that all insurance providers offer a basic level of healthcare coverage to ensure that all citizens can obtain insurance.
The basic level of health insurance is identical across all Swiss insurance providers, covering expenses such as general check-ups and treatments, prescription costs, vaccinations, hospital visits and more. A basic healthcare plan covers around 80-90% of a person’s medical costs.
Health Insurance Companies
The role of health insurance companies in Switzerland is complicated. As private companies, they are competitive and seek profit. However, since law dictates that they all have to offer the same medical services under the mandatory basic health insurance, companies have limited competition.
Healthcare insurance companies have decreased in number within the past 20 years, from over 1,000 to less than 100. Their influence on political decisions is high since many government officials represent and defend their interests.
Pros and Cons
The Swiss government legally requires anyone staying in Switzerland for over 90 days to acquire health insurance, no matter the total length of stay. Healthcare in Switzerland is expensive, and people pay for most treatments out-of-pocket rather than receiving reimbursement later.
Switzerland’s high healthcare costs partially come from the fact that the government-mandated private insurance premiums largely fund the healthcare system. Healthcare providers charge more money from individuals to cover medical costs and business expenses since the government does not fund healthcare.
However, healthcare standards are high and citizens can receive excellent quality care across the country. Since basic healthcare is mandatory for all residents, every person has an entitlement to the same coverage and standard of care.
Swiss health insurance companies cannot deny insurance or charge inflated insurance rates for those with pre-existing conditions. Depending on customers’ age and insurance package of choice, some health insurance companies also will charge the same fee for the duration of the residency in Switzerland. Insurance rates may not increase even in the event of sickness or injury.
Comparison with Other Countries
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared healthcare in Switzerland with healthcare in the 37 other OECD countries. It found that Switzerland’s model of universal health insurance coverage provides a wide variety of medical services and high patient satisfaction, but the percentage of Switzerland’s GDP that goes towards health is the second-highest in the OECD area.
Other OECD countries perform equally as well or even better in terms of healthcare at a lower cost. Switzerland spends the highest GDP, around 12%, on healthcare in comparison to other European countries. Swiss residents also spend an average of 10% of their salary on health insurance.
– Kathy Wei