Health Insurance

In Switzerland you are required by law to have health insurance: it is required for getting your residence permit. You are required to get this health insurance within three months of your arrival in the country. The website of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has good information regarding health insurance in Switzerland. 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:

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.

An annual policy can cost between 1,000 and 1,500 CHF (or between 85 and 105 CHF per month) depending on your age and annual deductible. 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.

To avoid being stuck paying for insurance you don’t need, bear in mind that most year-long policies are renewed every year, so 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.

Additional notes on the Health Insurance System

  • 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.
  • 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.

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