Healthcare in SwitzerlandSwitzerland is not in the EU, but is a member of the wider European Economic Area (EEA). One of the benefits of this is that UK visitors to Switzerland can take advantage of the reciprocal healthcare agreements between members of the EEA and access state healthcare in Switzerland in an emergency. In order to do this, you have to apply for an EHIC card before leaving home, and be aware that EHIC does not give all of the insurance you might need.
EHIC in SwitzerlandSwiss healthcare is among the best in Europe, and offers a mix of state and private provision. Your EHIC will only cover you for treatment in the state system, which is known as KVG. There in information in English on the KVG website which explains what you have to do in a medical emergency. Medical care in Switzerland is not free, and everyone is expected to contribute towards the cost of appointments. As an EHIC holder, you cannot claim these charges back. Expect to pay around £10 for each day you stay in hospital, and a lump sum of around £60 for any period of hospital treatment. Keep receipts for any bills you are asked to pay as you might be able to reclaim this money through your travel insurance once you are better.
Dental treatment is only covered by the Swiss state healthcare system to rectify damage after an accident, or when needed due to an illness affecting the mouth. Routine dentistry and orthodontics can be expensive. You will also have to pay for prescription medicine, and this will cost more in the medicine is dispensed outside standard shop hours.
Many doctors, nurses and pharmacists working in the Swiss healthcare system will speak good English, and if not, large hospitals will have access to a translation service. There are some important exclusions to the Swiss state health service though, which is why taking out travel insurance can offer greater peace of mind.
Private Medical Care in SwitzerlandMany people head to Switzerland to enjoy skiing or other winter sports in the Alps, and it is important to realise that in Switzerland mountain rescue and helicopter transfers off mountains after an accident are not publically funded. You will need to take out additional cover for this risk. Private travel insurance may also allow you to claim back fees you are charged for state healthcare.
There are also dozens of private clinics and hospitals in Switzerland, some of which are general hospitals and others which specialise in certain conditions. If you think you are covered to be treated in a private hospital, check with your insurance company first. You might be asked to pay an excess depending on what it says in your policy. If you plan to ski or climb on your trip it is essential that you add on winter sports cover as a standard travel insurance policy will not cover your costs if you break a leg while skiing. Travel insurance will also help meet the cost of getting you home, in an air ambulance if needed.