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Swiss Healthcare System

The Swiss healthcare system is applauded the world over as being outstanding. There are more doctors and nurses per capita than any other nation on earth. Medical facilities are supremely equipped, and there are no waiting lists. Naturally, all of this comes at a price. While the Swiss healthcare system ranks in first place in Europe, it is also the most expensive. Expats thinking of living in Switzerland often ask the question “Does Switzerland have free healthcare?” and the answer is complicated. Healthcare is universal, everyone in Switzerland is entitled to quality medical services regardless of their ability to pay. There is no publicly funded insurance system, however. Insurance is entirely private and compulsory, although the government subsidises low-income earners and provides financial support to the hospital network. Each canton has its own system and hundreds of non-profit insurance companies which enables a wide range of choice and competition.

Primary care

GPs are self-employed in Switzerland; you do not need to be registered.  Although if you have chronic conditions, it is useful to establish an ongoing care management program. You are also free to make an appointment directly with a specialist without a referral if your insurance supports this. Pharmacists can also offer primary care. They can conduct standardised triage and prescribe medication without needing to see a doctor. When you want to see a GP, you should make an appointment in advance and give 24 hours’ notice if you need to cancel. Otherwise, you may be charged. You will be sent a bill for your visit within a few days. Usually, you must pay this yourself and claim back a reimbursement from your insurer. Depending on your insurance, you will have to pay an excess of between CHF300-2500 per year before you can make a claim.


Swiss hospitals in Zurich are called Krankenhausen, recognisable by a white ‘H’ on a blue sign. Medical facilities in Switzerland are of the highest quality. They are modern and very well-equipped. You are free to choose your hospital and sometimes even your surgeon. Basic health insurance covers treatment, nursing care and out-patient follow-up. Although you need to pay a partial amount toward these costs from your insurance excess. The Swiss healthcare system also has an extensive network of medical centres, polyclinics, and health spas that provide a range of secondary care and specialist out-patient treatment. These may or may not be covered by your health insurance. Most hospitals will have emergency facilities, and you can call an ambulance for free on 144. Your insurance will only cover 50% of the ambulance costs. So, you may want to find another way to the hospital if you can.

Additional care

The Swiss healthcare system includes many highly qualified and expensive, dentists. Most dentists are private; hence the price and basic health insurances do not cover the charges. Some cantons may provide subsidies, but most people take out additional insurance to cover dental treatment. Complementary and alternative therapies are widely available in Switzerland, and insurance will pay for many of them. Homoeopathy is a recognised form of medicine and is extremely popular. Massage, acupuncture, and herbal medicine is also widely practised. The Swiss healthcare system has a high density of mental health providers. More psychiatrists per capita than any other nation in Europe. Your GP will refer you to the right treatment program or clinic very quickly, and basic insurance should cover up to 90% of the costs of psychotherapy.

Swiss healthcare system - Mundialz

Mundialz receives many questions like “Does Switzerland have free healthcare?” from our clients. We have created a network of expats who are best placed to answer these types of questions from a real personal perspective. Check out our information pages on moving to Switzerland and working in Switzerland for more guidance and advice.

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