For members


What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

Switzerland is late in issuing health insurance cards for new policy holders or those who have switched their providers at the end of 2022. What should you do if you need medical help before your new card arrives?

What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card
Your Austrian health insurance will pay a portion of your salary if you're off sick for a longer period of time, and also manages your long-term care insurance if necessary. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

When you buy a health insurance policy in Switzerland from any of the dozens of approved providers, you will receive a credit card-sized card to be used as proof of insurance. Aside from your name, date of birth, and AHV / AVS number, the card also includes the name of your insurance company, client number, and the date of validity.

You will have to present this card each time you seek medical treatment that is included under the obligatory KVG / LaMal scheme.

Residents of Switzerland are allowed to change their compulsory health insurance coverage from one provider to another by November 30th, to go into effect from January of the following year.

The sharp increase in the cost of the health insurance in 2023 — 6.6 percent on average, but higher in some cantons — has prompted many people to look for cheaper options and change their carriers.

READ MORE: Millions of Swiss residents switch health insurance amid rising costs

This massive switch has caused a backlog in the production of new insurance cards, which means that many policy holders have not yet received theirs.

The cards for all insurance carriers are issued by a subsidiary of the Santésuisse health insurance association, whose spokesperson, Manuel Ackermann, said that the delay is caused by the “extraordinarily large number” — three times as many as in an average year — of switches.

He did not specify how much longer is needed to issue and send out all the cards.

What should you do if you haven’t yet received your card?

Say you need medical help, or another situation arises where proof of health insurance is needed — for instance, if you are applying for a new job or registering in a new municipality.

In such cases, you can present the insurance certificate letter your carrier has issued when you took up your policy.

While not having an insurance card is a minor inconvenience in Switzerland, where such a certificate can be used in the interim, it could be more of a problem when travelling in the European Union.

Under normal circumstances, if you fall ill in the EU, all you have do is present your Swiss card, which is equivalent to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This way, you can be treated and the bill will go directly to your Swiss insurance company.

However, absence of the card could mean that hospitals in those countries may not recognise the insurance certificate alone, and require Swiss residents to pay for medical care on the spot.

While not an ideal situation, you can submit the bill, along with all the required documents such as details of your treatment, to your insurer in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can my Swiss health insurance refuse to pay my medical bills?

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For members


ANALYSIS: Do the Swiss really want ‘cheaper’ health insurance?

Calls for less expensive heath insurance premiums have been increasing in Switzerland in recent months. But do the people really want that?

ANALYSIS: Do the Swiss really want 'cheaper' health insurance?

The rising cost of Switzerland’s obligatory health insurance has been fueling much debate among the politicians and public alike.

Various measures to cut the rampant costs have been proposed, ranging  from tying premiums to income and abolishing the current private system in favour of a public, government-run one similar to the schemes in place across Europe.

The reason for this radical change is that “with a single player, it will be easier to maintain decent prices,” according to MP Baptiste Hurni, who is behind this proposal.

READ ALSO : Would people in Switzerland benefit from a government healthcare scheme?

In the wake of the announcement earlier this week that rates will rise by 8.7 percent on average, calls for the public option — and cheaper health insurance — have been increasing.

Everyone agrees that cost-curbing reform of the healthcare scheme is urgently needed, but do the Swiss really want to scrap the private system and replace it with a ‘cheaper’ government-run one, or is it just a reflex reaction to bad news?

Competition and free choice

The idea of the government managing the healthcare system is not exactly new in Switzerland; it had been brought up in the past when insurance rates had gone up.

Two referendums were held on this issue in the past 16 years, and both times the idea of a public health insurance scheme was turned down: by 71 percent in 2007 and by 61.5 percent of the votes in 2014.

Both times, the decisions were based on practical and rational, rather than purely emotional, considerations.

As Swiss media explained it at the time, voters “noted the negative consequences of a public fund, citing in particular the absence of competition, the loss of free choice, and a certain unease with increased state intervention in the health sector.”

Additionally, “voters were not convinced that the new system would have been able to reduce health insurance premiums” — the argument that is still being raised today. 

Another argument that swayed the voters away from the government scheme is that the private insurance system provides a higher quality of services —including better access to specialists and shorter wait times for medical procedures than in countries with the public system.

According to a survey by the Organisation  for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) on how long patients in various countries typically wait for an appointment with a specialist, the share of people in Switzerland waiting a month or more is 23 percent, compared to 36 percent in France, 52 percent in Sweden, and 61 percent in Norway.

OECD statistics also show that Switzerland has among the shortest waits for medical tests and procedures.

And there is more.

The Swiss are actually very happy with their private system.

A survey conducted in 11 countries by the US-based Commonwealth Fund Foundation showed that 88 percent of respondents rate the overall performance of Switzerland’s health system as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, putting Switzerland in the first place.

It is therefore doubtful that the Swiss, who are accustomed to (you may even say ‘spoiled’ by) the current system of healthcare, will be happy to switch to a lesser one.

As a forum commentator in one of the local newspapers pointed out “you will find faults in our system until you go abroad and see how good we really have it.”

And an important point was made by another forum user: “We all want high-quality health care and all the latest technology, but we should realise  this costs money and doesn’t come cheaply.”

No revolutions, please

Referring to the idea of replacing the present system with the public one, Health Minister Alain Berset said during a press conference this week that Switzerland has a “very good health system” and doesn’t need a radical overhaul.

“With the exception of 1848 [a year of political reform in Switzerland], I have never been a supporter of revolutions,” he added. “There is no need for one now.”

So what is the solution to soaring costs?

Instead of drastic changes, Berset said the current system, which has proven its worth since it was first introduced in the mid-1990s, should undergo cost-cutting measures.

Among the steps being debated are lower drug costs, more use of generic medication (which is less expensive than brand-name drugs), better transparency of costs billed by hospital and doctors; as well as fewer procedures for which there is no strict medical need.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs