Every insured person has the right to change the provider of his or her basic compulsory Swiss health insurance at specific times every year. For most people changing is only possible if you cancel your existing policy by 30 November. This date is rapidly approaching.
1 January changes before 30 November
Insurers must tell their members what next year’s premiums will be by 31 October. Members then have until 30 November to cancel their insurance contract for the following year. All basic insurance contracts offer this possibility. This means if you want to change to a different provider in 2016 you need to cancel you existing policy by 30 November 2015.
What is basic health insurance?
Basic insurance is compulsory and breaks down into two elements: cover for illness and cover for accidents. By default policies cover both. Those with accident insurance as part of their employment are able to opt out of the accident element and reduce their premium.
Basic insurance covers basic healthcare and hospitalisation in your canton of residence. There are many choices around how it is delivered, each with different premium levels. Some insurers offer discounts in return for service restrictions such as using one pharmacy or always visiting your family doctor before seeing a specialist. Discounts are also given if you choose a higher deductible – these run up to a maximum of 2,500 for adults and 600 for children.
The second type of policy is complementary or supplementary health insurance. This is optional and can cover a range of treatments and risks not covered by basic insurance including dentistry, alternative medicine, prenatal care, travel insurance, enhanced hospital care, loss of earnings and lump sum payments if you are unable to work. Complementary insurance contracts often have terms that extend beyond one year. There is no automatic right to change these policies annually. This does not stop you from making annual changes to your basic insurance policy or changing basic insurance provider. Complementary insurance is separate from basic insurance even when bought with basic cover.
1 July changes before 31 March
If your basic insurance is on a standard plan with an adult deductible of CHF 300 or a child deductible of zero you can change mid-year. Those with other plans, with requirements such as a need to visit your family doctor before seeing a specialist, or higher deductibles normally can’t. To do this your insurer must receive a written cancellation letter by 31 March and find a new provider by 1 July.
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) recommends starting the process early to avoid missing the deadline. It is important to note that it is the date the cancellation letter arrives at the insurance company that matters and not the date it was sent. Using registered post provides proof a letter has arrived.
Once the cancellation letter has been sent and received, the switch to a new insurer becomes final when the existing insurance company receives a confirmation letter from the new one. This needs to happen before the end of the year to ensure uninterrupted coverage. The OFSP provides a termination letter template on their website.
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Finding a new insurer, comparing prices and cover
The OFSP keeps a register of qualifying providers and has a tool for comparing providers called Priminfo. Premiums for the following year are published by the end of September on Priminfo every year. In addition, there are commercial comparison websites such as Comparis and Bonus. In 2001 there were close to 100 different approved insurance providers. In 2016 there are only 57.
Health insurance premiums are rising in line with costs. 2016 will see average health insurance premium increases of 4% nationally with some rising by over 20%. The chart above shows average premium increases since 2006. The average premium has risen by 40% over this ten-year period.
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