Health Insurance

In Switzerland, you are required by law to have health insurance within three months of your arrival in the country. Make sure you are insured within three months of arriving and that an attestation is sent from your insurance company to the OCPM.Otherwise the OCPM will automatically register you with a designated insurance company (which costs much more).

IHEID’s Health and Insurance page has useful information for determining if you need to register for a Swiss insurance company. If you are planning to use your current health insurance, you need to make sure that this type of insurance is deemed adequate by the Canton of Geneva.

Luckily for EU citizens, their European Health Insurance Card covers them in Switzerland. Many EU citizens need to pay for the medical costs and they will be reimbursed by their ‘home insurance’ later, sometimes all costs are covered by your ‘home insurance’, only a certain percentage or only what the same procedure would have cost in your home country.

If your insurance is not accepted in Geneva, you need to purchase a Swiss insurance policy from one of the many insurance companies with student-friendly plans. Some of them are:

The Graduate Institute does not provide insurance for students. It does have an agreement with Swiss Advisor insurance provider, which offers “preferential rates” to students, but this is only one of several companies available. In fact, GISA has received numerous complaints from students over the past two years regarding problems with Advisor’s services, particularly in failing to reimburse students for their medical expenses, delaying payments to doctors’ offices, and providing unclear and misleading information. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to consult the other options available (see list above) and ask for students’ experiences. 

Swiss health insurance policies are pricey. A student annual policy can cost between 600 and 1,500 CHF (or between 50 and 125 CHF per month) depending on your age and the annual deductible you choose. While this may seem expensive for many international students, it is really a bargain by Swiss standards where normally a monthly plan for citizens can cost more than 500 CHF. Although companies are required to accept all requests, they actually can deny offering the student-rated policies on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, for example.

Some insurance companies (like Swiss Advisor) offer student packages that include not only the mandatory health insurance but also civil liability.

For more information, the website of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has good information regarding health insurance in Switzerland.

Additional notes on the Health Insurance System

  • The price of the policies vary according to your age, medical record and the annual deductible you choose. The annual deductible is the amount of money you will pay from your pocket in case you require medical attention. The insurance company will start reimbursing the costs only after that amount has been reached. The larger the deductible, the smallest the fee and vice-versa. 
  • The Swiss health insurance system works through a reimbursement method and follows very precise rules which probably differ from the ones adopted in your home country. Typically you have to pay for the medical costs and wait for your insurance company to transfer the money to your account. It is important to read carefully the coverage guidelines of your insurance policy to see how the reimbursement process works and to follow up to ensure that the company reimburses you on time.
  • Bear in mind that most year-long policies are automatically renewed every year. To avoid being stuck paying for insurance you don’t need, remember to request to cancel your policy well in advance! For example, Advisor requires you to inform them via post (carte recommandé) about your cancellation and provide them with proof of alternate coverage three months before your new policy year would begin.
  • By means of “Santé Social” (in French only) UNIGE provides information and assistance to students looking for professional medical advice or for relevant tips concerning the improvement of their welfare in Geneva. Beware that the existence of this service by no means replaces the acquisition of mandatory health insurance.

For information on how to find doctors or access available welfare resources, take a look at this list of doctors in Geneva prepared by the welfare committee of GISA.

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