Why Switzerland Has the Best Healthcare System in the World

You might know Switzerland primarily for its watches, chocolate, and banks, but the country is in the news for its incredible healthcare system. Here's what sets the Swiss apart.

Close Up Of Hospital Staff Reviewing Notes On Digital TabletMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

When Switzerland was named “best country” overall by U.S. News and World Report, two virtues stood out: The nation’s near-perfect ratings for economic and political stability, and its health care system. That may help explain why the Swiss, who live to be 83 on average, have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, surpassing the average in the United States by almost four years. But, Switzerland isn’t actually the healthiest country in the world—this European country is.

“Switzerland’s mandatory basic health insurance requirement guarantees everybody living in Switzerland affordable access to good medical care,” reports Fortune. What else sets Switzerland apart? Here’s what the National Institutes of Health singles out:

  • Swiss residents are required by law to purchase health insurance (mandatory health insurance, or MHI).
  • No one is denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • The government subsidizes MHI for people with low income.
  • Patients have direct access to all levels of care—no referrals necessary.
  • MHI allows patients to choose their own provider.
  • Waiting times are minimal.
  • Maternity coverage is excellent: It includes prenatal care, all delivery-related costs, a week-long post-delivery hospital stay (during which baby-care skills are taught). There are also post-natal housecalls by a qualified midwife.

The Swiss system does have a few flaws, however:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses for the Swiss are considered exceptionally high by European standards.
  • MHI premiums are increasing more quickly than Swiss incomes, and low- and middle-income households end up contributing a greater share of their income to the financing of health care than high-income households.
  • Switzerland’s level of health spending is high compared to most European countries (most of which have single-payer systems).

Despite the cost of the Swiss system, it’s still more affordable than the U.S. version: Overall, it makes up just 12.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product compared to 17.2 percent in the United States, reports Fortune. Until the United States finds ways to cut health care expenses, you’ll want to take advantage of these 13 health insurance tricks that can save you thousands.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.