Health insurance: Tourists abroad and globetrotters

Persons who travel but do not take up residence abroad remain subject to insurance obligations in Switzerland.  

Compulsory health insurance cannot be terminated or suspended during a stay abroad or a trip around the world. Insurance obligations in Switzerland are based on the legal domicile of the persons concerned. As long as persons do not establish a domicile abroad, they remain essentially subject to insurance obligations in Switzerland. Under the Swiss Civil Code (CC), a person’s domicile is the place in which he or she resides with the intention of settling (Art. 23), and a person retains his or her domicile until such time as a new one is acquired (Art. 24). Merely notifying the communal authority of one’s departure is not in itself sufficient to terminate one’s residence in Switzerland.

Reimbursement of treatment costs in countries outside-EU/EFTA/UK

In countries outside the EU/EFTA or the United Kingdom (UK), the costs of urgent medical treatment will be reimbursed up to a maximum of twice the amount that the insurer would have paid if the treatment had been provided in Switzerland. In the case of inpatient treatment, however, this means that the insurer will reimburse no more than 90% of the costs that would have arisen for hospitalisation in Switzerland. This is because, in the case of hospital treatment in Switzerland, at least 55% of the costs are borne by the cantons, which is not the case for hospital stays abroad; the insurer thus reimburses a maximum of 45% for each hospital stay in Switzerland.

To ensure full reimbursement, it is therefore advisable to take out supplementary travel insurance for stays outside the EU, particularly in certain countries where medical and transport costs are higher than in Switzerland (e.g. the US, Canada, Japan) and in other (developing) countries where foreign nationals are admitted to expensive special hospitals.

Reimbursement of treatment costs in EU/EFTA countries or UK

In EU/EFTA countries or the United Kingdom (UK), insured persons presenting a European Health Insurance Card (to be found on the back of the Swiss health insurance card issued under the Health Insurance Act/KVG) are entitled to reimbursement for any medical services that are considered essential in view of the type of service and the expected length of the temporary stay. The insurer will cover the costs of the same medical services as would be provided to a person insured in the country in question.
Useful information on the reimbursement of treatment costs in each country can be found on the website of the Common Institution under the KVG (see link below).

Last modification 19.04.2024

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Health and Accident Insurance Directorate
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Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
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