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InsuranceHealth insuranceComplementary medicine – the natural alternative
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Complementary medicine – the natural alternative

02.09.2020

Complementary medicine: natural methods for strengthening and self-healing Source: iStock.com/JanPietruszka

Complementary and alternative forms of medicine are enjoying immense popularity. But basic health insurance only covers certain practices. If you want to access them all, you should consider taking out a supplemental insurance policy.

An increasing awareness of our body and our health has led to a greater general interest in alternatives to the treatment methods offered by conventional medicine. Comparis describes these alternative practices and explains how you can make use of them.

What is complementary medicine?

Unlike conventional medicine, complementary medicine is based on a holistic view of the human body. Its goal is not merely to counter the symptoms of an illness, but to identify the causes and strengthen a person’s ability to self-heal. These practices can be used to complement the treatment methods of conventional medicine. That’s why they are called “complementary”. If they replace standard medical treatment completely, they are described as alternative.

Many of these methods of diagnosis and treatment date back to a time before the development of conventional western medicine. Some are many thousands of years old. However, it is only recently that the effectiveness of these old methods has been subject to the precise level of scientific research that has long been standard for surgical operations and western medicines.

What complementary and alternative medicine practices does basic insurance cover?

Basic insurance will cover the cost of the following 5 complementary medicine practices, as long as they are provided by conventionally trained doctors:

  • Anthroposophic medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Neural therapy
  • Phytotherapy
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

Physiotherapy is also usually covered by basic insurance. Although it is considered complementary and the therapist is not a doctor, it is covered as long as a doctor prescribes it. In addition, selected medicines from the field of complementary medicine are covered in Switzerland.

What supplemental insurance deals are available for complementary and alternative medicine?

Complementary and alternative medicine treatments can be covered by a single supplemental policy or as part of a package. If you are tempted by a package, make sure that you actually need all the other components it contains. Remember also that some insurers may only cover selected practices provided by specific doctors or therapists.

Supplemental insurance policies also differ in terms of the cost covered. Some health insurers will pay a percentage of the cost of outpatient treatments (e.g. 75% or 80%). Others will contribute a fixed amount (e.g. up to 80 francs per hour). Cover may differ for outpatient and inpatient services. The maximum amount payable for benefits provided in one year also varies.

When is it worth taking out supplemental insurance?

It's worth taking out supplemental insurance if you prefer to be treated using complementary or alternative medicine practices. This is because, from the wide range of services available in this area, only a few treatments are currently covered by basic insurance. Supplemental insurance complements compulsory basic health insurance. It therefore offers you a wider choice of therapies than basic insurance.

However, your chosen insurer is not obliged to accept your application for supplemental insurance. It is therefore advisable to address the matter early in the year.

What should I watch out for when taking out supplemental insurance for complementary and alternative medicine?

Essentially, you need to be meticulous when selecting a supplemental insurance deal. Not all insurers cover all treatment types. Check carefully whether your chosen therapy is included in the supplemental insurance deal you are considering, as often the choice of therapist is also restricted. Otherwise, in the worst-case scenario, you may not be able to be treated by your preferred specialist – even though you have supplemental insurance.

So take a close look at the benefits included. How much is reimbursed? There are significant differences here. Some insurers will pay a particular percentage up to a maximum amount, while others require you to pay a deductible first. Clarify these issues in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Like in basic health insurance, there is a deductible and a coinsurance payment in supplemental insurance. Both vary from insurer to insurer. However, they are usually lower than in basic insurance.

Compare supplemental insurance now

Where can I find more information?

Complementary medicine is popular. Accordingly, the range of providers and treatments on the market is extensive and can be confusing. To get an idea of what type of treatment could be suitable for you, take advantage of any advisory services offered.

Many health insurers are happy to advise their policyholders and only pay for services provided by specialists who are listed in the Empirical Medicine Register (EMR) (in German, French and Italian only). Ideally, contact your health insurer to find out more. If you have a particular illness, you can also obtain good advice on alternative treatments from patient associations – such as the Swiss Cancer League or the Swiss League Against Rheumatism.

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