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Swiss insurance products: What do newcomers need?

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As a newcomer to "insurance nation" Switzerland, finding your way isn't easy: The AXA employee Agata can well remember her move from Germany to Switzerland and explains the pitfalls.

For the start of her new job at AXA in Winterthur, Agata had to move from Germany to Switzerland. And it all took a lot more effort than she had initially estimated. "Although I had started my job at an insurance company, the Swiss insurance system was a large question mark for me at the time," remembers Agata.

Many newcomers go through the same experience. Switzerland is an "insurance nation." Many Swiss also have difficulties navigating the insurance jungle. Some insurances are mandatory, others are recommended.

Are there differences between Swiss health insurance companies?

"The first thing I did was to take out basic health insurance with a health insurance fund," explains Agata. After moving to Switzerland, newcomers must register with a health insurer within three months. There is a choice of around 50 health insurance funds and every basic insurer is obligated to accept you. Whether you are sick or healthy. Here, comparing the premiums is worthwhile since the benefits are the same for all basic insurance due to need to meet legal requirements. You can terminate your policy just once a year, effective year-end.

So why don't all health insurance funds cost the same?

The various basic insurers all offer the same benefits. "The health insurance funds cover the same medical treatments and medications – initially, I didn't realize this." There are differences in the monthly premiums. These vary depending on the selected insurance model, age, gender, and place of residence.

Not included: Dental insurance in Switzerland

"In Switzerland, dental treatment is not covered under basic insurance," explains Agata. Teeth, sports, glasses, etc. can be insured for adults and children with voluntary supplementary health insurance. These insurers are not obligated to accept you, and can reject would-be customers due to their age or state of health.

How to make savings on your insurance

It is not obligatory to have basic and supplementary insurance with the same health insurer. "I never even considered the idea of splitting – but it really makes sense. It can save you several hundred francs per year."

Accident insurance is the only health insurance that is partially financed through the employer. Anyone who works more than eight hours per week for the same employer is insured automatically. The premiums are divided between employers and employees. Anyone who works less than eight hours per week must take out their own insurance against accidents with their compulsory basic insurer.

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    Emigrating to Switzerland

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The right insurance for your home

Another insurance — which is recommended though not compulsory — is personal liability insurance. It protects you against any losses you cause to third parties. "I recommend that everyone takes out this insurance right away. My landlord wanted to see proof of this before I moved in," says Agata.

What's in your own home is insured under household contents insurance against damage caused by fire, water and theft. "Many insurance companies also offer household contents and liability insurance as a combination. This makes things much easier."

Coverage for your car in Switzerland

If you've not taken out motor vehicle insurance, you'll not get a Swiss license plate for your car. Liability insurance is mandatory and pays for losses caused to third parties. Partial or comprehensive accidental damage insurance is voluntary and offers benefits in case of damage to your own vehicle as well as financial support for the driver and the passengers.

And what about my pension?

Swiss retirement provision is based on the three-pillar principle. The first and second pillars are mandatory and the contributions are paid directly from your monthly salary. The third pillar is voluntary for everyone. "The conversation with an advisor really helped me to understand the pension system," explains Agata, who's now lived in Switzerland for more than three years.

It also helped with other open questions. Agata's advice: "An appointment with an insurance advisor is extremely useful and helps you find your way in the nation of insurance."

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