Five ways expats can benefit from international health insurance

Moving abroad is a massive upheaval, physically and emotionally. Knowing your health is covered no matter where you are and whatever happens can be a huge weight off your shoulders.

Five ways expats can benefit from international health insurance
Photo: Tirachard KumtanomPexels

The Local has partnered with leading international insurance broker ASN to bring you five ways that expats can benefit from international health insurance.

You always know where to go

If you injure yourself or become unwell in your home country, you instantly know where to seek help. In a new country, it’s not always as clear. When you have international health insurance, your provider can look into their network of doctors and hospitals and advise you on where to go. Many providers also have 24/7 hotlines you can call for round-the-clock advice.

There’s no language barrier

The only thing more frightening than becoming ill when you’re abroad is not understanding the diagnosis. With international health insurance, your provider is obliged to find you a doctor or specialist who speaks your language. If it’s an emergency, being privately insured guarantees this is always the case. When that isn’t possible, it’s the insurance provider’s responsibility to make sure you know exactly what is happening regarding your health and treatment.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

You’re fully protected

Once you’ve found your nearest GP, you can hone in on other aspects of your health. Expats often neglect dentist or therapist appointments because they are unfamiliar with local healthcare services. With international health insurance, your insurer can arrange these appointments for you (provided they are included in your policy). When ASN finetunes your policy for you, they can create bespoke plans that include options like optical cover and wellness packages so that you’re covered from head to toe.

Photo: Vitalik Radko/Depositphotos

Your kids are covered too

Knowing your children’s health is protected while you’re abroad is priceless. Many international health insurance policies allow for unlimited paediatrician appointments while some cover your children for all their vaccinations too.

There are also many advantages of international health insurance if you become pregnant while living in another country. You can give birth in a private hospital of your choice or, if there is a medical reason, you can choose to go back to your home country to have the baby. Speak to an international health insurance advisor at ASN to find out more about how international health insurance can benefit you if you are pregnant or become pregnant while living abroad.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

Manage chronic illness abroad

If you have a chronic illness it can complicate things but it shouldn’t stop you from expatriating. However, it’s not always easy to find cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition. International health insurers are private and so have the right to refuse you cover if you have diabetes or another chronic condition. ASN’s experts know which providers may be more open to covering clients with a chronic illness and in some cases can negotiate full cover for a higher premium.

Once your policy has been activated ASN can help you with everything you need relating to your health insurance. The multi-lingual team is available to answer all your questions and ensure that you get the best possible cover from your health insurance provider. Click here to get your personal insurance quote.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ASN Advisory Services Network.

For members


UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s rules for cannabis consumption?

Switzerland has a complicated set of rules for both medical and recreational cannabis consumption. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's rules for cannabis consumption?

Long prohibited and seen as a gateway drug with potentially dangerous impacts, countries across the globe have begun legalising cannabis in recent years. 

While the legalisation for medical use has been widespread, there have also been successful legalisation campaigns in several countries. 

The situation in Switzerland is also in flux and has been complicated by a range of recent changes.

Whether referred to as cannabis, marijuana or hemp, Switzerland’s Narcotics Act qualifies it as “a psychoactive substance”, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being its most intoxicating ingredient.

The law specifies that “only THC is controlled under the Narcotics Act. Other active substances like cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to the Narcotics Act as they do not have comparable psychoactive effects”.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Switzerland has legalised medical marijuana 

As of August 1st, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed in Switzerland

Patients who are medically prescribed the drug will no longer need to seek exceptional permission from the health ministry, as was the case prior to August 1st. 

Demand for cannabis-based treatments has risen sharply, with the health ministry issuing 3,000 exceptional authorisations in 2019.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients” and was therefore lifting the ban on its use for that purpose, it said in a statement.

The previous procedure involved “tedious administrative procedures”, said the ministry. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

As of August 1st, “the decision as to whether a cannabis medicinal product is to be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient” the government wrote

The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain prohibited.

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift ban on medical use cannabis

The new regulations could benefit thousands of people suffering from severe chronic pain, it added, including those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

READ ALSO: Why Basel is about to become Switzerland’s marijuana capital

The law change will also mean that the cultivation, processing, manufacture and trade of cannabis for medical use will be subject to the Swissmedic regulatory authority, just as with other narcotics for medical use such as cocaine, methadone and morphine.

Legality of recreational cannabis is determined by the THC

THC of at least 1 percent is generally prohibited in Switzerland and use of products with this (or higher) content may be punishable by a 100-franc fine.

Of course, if someone is determined to smoke it, 100 francs may not be much a deterrent — but that’s a subject for another article.

“By contrast, possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use is not considered a criminal offence”, the law states, as long as it is not used by or sold to minors.

Italy's constitutional court has blocked the latest efforts to legalise cannabis.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

And, as with nearly everything else in decentralised Switzerland, “there are still considerable differences between cantons regarding implementation of the fixed penalty procedure”.

However, “cannabis flowers intended for smoking with a high proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 1 percent THC can be sold and purchased legally”, according to the legislation. 

That’s because, unlike the THC, cannabidiol “does not have a psychoactive effect”.

In other words, low-content THC and CBD will not give the “high” that recreational users seek.

When will Switzerland legalise recreational cannabis?

Currently, small amounts of recreational cannabis are tolerated in Switzerland.

“The decisive factor for classification as a banned drug is how much THC is contained in a cannabis product. If the THC content exceeds one per cent, the product is prohibited. Hashish is prohibited regardless of its THC content.”

As noted by the Swiss government, “If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 10 grams) for your own consumption, you will not be fined. In addition, if you supply (but do not sell) up to 10 grams to an adult, e.g. when sharing joints, you will not be fined.”

“If you are caught using cannabis, you may be given a fixed penalty fine of 100 francs.”

In June 2020, the National Council approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use.

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study seeks to find out how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation will also be examined. 

At this point, no decisions have been made. However, Swiss authorities have set certain conditions in case recreational use is approved.

The National Council said if cannabis were to be legalised, it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and it must be organic. 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”.

READ MORE: Switzerland backs recreational cannabis trials – with one condition

Can you grow your own cannabis?

In truth, a number of people cultivate marijuana plants on their balconies or in their (secluded) gardens for their own personal use.

As it turns out, the law allows it, as long as it is a variety of the plant that does not have a narcotic effect — that is, the THC content must be less than 1 percent. 

By the same token, cannabis-based products with THC content of below 1 percent can be brought into Switzerland from abroad.

However, the import rules differ depending on the type of product  it is — flowers, seeds, extracts, oils, or other goods.

How much cannabis is consumed in Switzerland each year?

Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to an article in Le Temps, which based its information on a medical study, about 100 tonnes are consumed in the country annually.

Cannabis remains the largest market in terms of volume: it represents 85 percent of drugs consumed in Switzerland, netting between 340, 000 and 500,000 francs per year.

READ MORE: Drugs and alcohol: Just how much do the Swiss consume?