Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

The bottomless pit of Swiss health insurance

I’ve been living in Switzerland since early 2001: coming up on sixteen years. Since arriving, I’ve been forced to contribute to the health system by paying monthly premiums to the tune of around Fr. 300 per month. This reflects the bare minimum–the obligatorische Krankenpflegeversicherung–which is a legal requirement.

Just like car insurance, a person with health insurance has to pay the excess before the insurance company starts contributing. The higher the excess, the lower the monthly premiums. By choosing a Fr. 2,500 excess, the premiums are as low as I can get them.

I’m lucky in that I’ve been very healthy in my time here: rarely needing more than a check-up here or a blood test there. That being said, the usual bill for a twenty-minute visit to the G.P. is around Fr. 100, so I’ve probably paid bills of Fr. 500-800 each year since I’ve been here.

So, here are the maths: 192 months’ insurance, plus the bills which don’t get past my excess, comes to the princely sum of  Fr. 68,000. A cost which has in no way been assisted by the insurance which I’m obliged to maintain.

The common response to this by the Swiss is, “ah yes, but you’ll be grateful for it when you need it”. I’d like to say that this is looking on the good side, but the people I’ve discussed this with hint more about the inevitability of massive bills, rather than a positive approach to the health care system. The main positive side of all these costs is the rapid approach to treatment: hardly a waiting list, with operations being carried out expediently in super-clean, super-modern environments. So you get what you pay for, at least.