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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?
Whether or not you can suspend your health insurance depends on how long you stay abroad.Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad

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How people in Switzerland can save money on healthcare

Nearly 900,000 Swiss could save up to 40 percent of their health insurance premiums in 2023. Here's how.

How people in Switzerland can save money on healthcare

Much has been said about Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance, most of it about its high — and continually growing — costs.

Premiums will likely rise by an average of 5 percent in the fall, and many people could even see their rates soar by more than 10 percent in 2023 — the sharpest hike in premiums in 20 years.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why do Swiss healthcare premiums vary so much per canton?

According to online comparator Comparis, almost 900,000 people in Switzerland could save at least 40 percent of their health insurance premiums in 2023.

Savings are possible by switching to one of the cheapest insurers, by increasing the deductible rate or by opting for another model of insurance with their current health insurance fund, Comparis said on Tuesday.

Premiums are going up even for cheaper insurers

“However, the politically enforced, excessive reserve reduction at the health insurers has led to the fact that even low-cost health insurers had to increase their premiums strongly,” said Comparis health insurance expert Felix Schneuwly.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are Swiss health insurance premiums set to rise?

Because of that, the difference in premiums between companies has decreased, and fewer insured persons can save money by changing companies. Last year, the savings potential of 40 percent or more applied to 1.1 million people.

The amount of the savings vary depending on the policyholder’s place of residence because cantons determine rates.

However, in a previous study, Comparis calculated that over ten years, people living in Zurich could have saved 33,396 francs in premium costs and for those living in Bern, this amount is 30,064.

Lausanne residents could cut costs by 36,494 francs over ten years, 31, 032 in Geneva and 33,490 in Basel-City.