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HEALTH INSURANCE

EXPLAINED: Should I take out Swiss health insurance before or after the birth of my baby?

In Switzerland, you can choose between taking out health insurance for your baby either before or after the birth – but there’s a catch.

EXPLAINED: Should I take out Swiss health insurance before or after the birth of my baby?
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

In Switzerland, basic health insurance is mandatory even for the youngest among us.

Though it is generally recommended to register your baby with a health insurance prior to giving birth to save yourself the admin headache during recovery and bonding time, you can also take out health insurance after birth – though this could have financial consequences.

In any case, you should do this no later than three months after welcoming your baby.

When taking out basic health insurance after birth, your baby will be insured retrospectively from their birth. This also means that the premiums must be paid retrospectively up to the entire month of birth.

You must also inform your own health insurance of your new arrival. Note that your baby does not have to be registered with the same health insurance as you or your partner.

Are there any consequences to taking out basic health insurance for my baby after birth?

No, there are no financial consequences to taking out basic health insurance for your newborn following the birth, provided you do so within the necessary time frame.

What about supplementary health insurance?

While taking out basic health insurance will – hassle aside – play out the same way before and after the birth, this is not the case for (voluntary) supplementary health insurance.

In Switzerland, you are strongly recommended to register with a basic health insurance company during your pregnancy as this will enable you to take out supplementary health insurance for your baby at the same time. Some insurance companies, such as Concordia (100 francs), will even give you a so-called baby bonus.

Further to this, when registering your baby with a health insurance company for basic health coverage you will not be asked to provide any health check for your (unborn) baby.

However, when taking out supplementary health insurance after your child’s birth, the insurer will collect information about your baby’s health in the form of an extensive survey – similar to those adults in Switzerland have to fill out when registering with an insurance company.

This means that should your baby be born ill or with a disability, the insurance company can impose restrictions on the benefits they are to receive, or worse, refuse to sign a contract for your baby altogether.

According to a 2019 article by Swiss broadcasting company SRF, most Swiss supplementary health insurance companies will almost always reject a baby that is born with a disability as they consider them a ‘bad risk’.

You will also have to inform the insurance company of any illness or disability that has been detected during antenatal screening tests, in which case the insurer may again refuse to take your baby on.

However, note that the health insurance company is not allowed to request antenatal screening tests. Parents must only declare the results with the insurance if they have it.

In general, it is advisable to have your baby insured between the 4th and 8th month of your pregnancy.

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For members

HEALTH INSURANCE

It’s not over: What happens now after Swiss reject health insurance changes?

On Sunday, Swiss voters rejected two initiatives to curb the price of obligatory health insurance premiums. But this doesn't mean nothing will change.

It's not over: What happens now after Swiss reject health insurance changes?

Though early surveys indicated that the initiative spearheaded by the Social Democratic Party, seeking to cap insurance rates at 10 percent of income, would be overwhelmingly accepted, on Sunday 55.5 percent of voters turned it down.

Among the main reasons for the rejection was that implementing this measure (which already exists in Switzerland in the form of subsidies for low-income families) would cost several billion francs a year, further increasing the already very high healthcare costs.

While Social Democrats said the referendum results “are disappointing,” according to business association Economiesuisse,“the Swiss understood that the ‘10-percent initiative’ was misleading.” 

With the ‘no’ vote, “billions of francs in additional costs will be avoided,” the group added.

Another commentator pointed out that “the left is launching initiatives without ever saying how we are going to finance it all.” 

The second health insurance initiative voted on Sunday, that sought to provide a ‘brake’ on health costs, was turned down by 62.7 percent of voters. 

READ ALSO: Support for proposals to curb Swiss health insurance costs wanes 

What will happen to health insurance premiums now?

The Federal Council and the parliament have urged the ‘no’ vote to both, creating counter-proposals to each of the two initiatives — that is, their own bills in response to the concerns raised in the initiatives.

Counter-proposals, which are usually more moderate and more ‘implementable’ than original initiatives — come into force automatically if the initiative is rejected.

Under the counter-proposal to the ’10 percent’ initiative, cantons will have to earmark between 3.5 and 7.5 percent of their budgets for premium reductions of the costs of compulsory health insurance on their territories, while the federal government will continue to contribute 7.5 percent.

While this implies that hundreds of millions of francs of public money will be spent to alleviate the ‘premium burden’ of low-income households, it will still be less than about 6 billion that the original initiative required.

What about the ‘cost brake’ initiative?

In this case, the counter-proposal provides for the government to set a limit every four years on the increase in the costs of compulsory health insurance.

The Federal Council as well as the cantons will consider not only wage growth (as the original initiative sought to do), but also the aging population and other demographic trends, medical progress, as well as  other factors that play a role in health insurance premiums.

Additionally, the Federal Council wants to set up a commission for monitoring costs and quality of health insurance.

And there is more

The left-wing parties have already said they would continue to force  referendums aiming to cut the cost of health insurance.

The Greens are now focusing on basing insurance premiums on income.

As for Social Democrats, the party said it will now “work on launching an initiative for public health insurance.”

Neither of these ideas are new.

The implementation of income-based premiums, while supported by various parties, doesn’t seem likely.

The current system is widely thought to be “fair and balanced”, according to Lukas Engelberger, president of Cantonal Health Directors Association.

That’s because the system in place is based on solidarity  — the idea that all insured people form a group.

It can be thought of in terms of a huge pot to which each resident of Switzerland makes a contribution (that is, premium payments), so that in an emergency there are enough resources available to give someone the help they need when they need it.

If the present approach were to change, however, and become income-based, it would be difficult to maintain the solidarity component which, according to officials, has proven its worth.

READ ALSO:  How the Swiss health insurance system is based on solidarity 

In terms of one state-run health insurance scheme, as is the case elsewhere in Europe, Social Democrats have been calling for scrapping of multiple private carriers in favour of the government running the scheme for a while.

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.

In a 2014 referendum on this subject, 62 percent of voters said ‘no’ to the plan,  with those opposing arguing that a private insurance system offers more choices  and provides a higher quality of services —including better access to specialists and shorter wait times for medical procedures —  than a public option.

They also pointed out that higher premiums are inevitable given an ageing population and higher life expectancy, and shifting to a public system would generate few savings.

However, attitudes may have changed in the last 10 years.

A survey conducted by the Basel Center for Health Economics (BCHE) in January 2024, showed that 68 percent of Switzerland’s population would like the current system to be replaced by a single health insurer.

READ ALSO: Could Switzerland ever change to state-run health insurance scheme? 

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