Navigating International Insurance and The Swiss Clinique

Post by Lauren

In Switzerland, you don’t go to the hospital for planned procedures such as delivering a baby or foot surgeries. You go to a Clinique. No, not like the make-up counter. A Clinique is like a cross between a doctors office and a hospital. And then add in a little high end hotel.

In Switzerland, they are very cautious. They don’t take chances. So, I wasn’t surprised when my doctor indicated that I would need to come in the night before to spend the night at the Clinique. Nor was I surprised when I found out I would stay four nights there.

I had a bit of trouble trying to convince my US-based insurance of this.

These conversations took place over the course a week, but I have condensed it for you as well as deleted the multiple tear-sessions by yours truly that they induced:

“Hi. I need a guarantee of payment because the hospital either needs this or 20,000 swiss francs from me upfront*. I had been told that I should contact your agency to secure this documentation if a need ever arose.”

“Okay…we can help you. Please tell us what you are having done.”

“I have severe arthritis in my toes. I need a chilectomy and an osteotomy. This was supposed to be done in March, but my surgeon just fit me into a cancellation spot and the operation will be next week. Sorry for the short notice but I really need this quickly.”

“Okay we will work on this. No problem.”

(days pass)

“Hello. I want to check on the status of my guarantee of payment. My surgery is in four days.”

“Ma’am, these things take time. Likely another week before you will hear back.”

“But I don’t have time!!! I just got an appointment with a world renowned surgeon who just had a cancellation. My feet hurt…I am in pain…I have guests coming……I can’t wait until late Spring!”

“Wait, Ma’am. Why do your feet hurt? We have noted you were having a colon operation”.

(lots of resulting explanation occurs)

“We don’t understand….why do you have to stay in the hospital so many days? In the US, we see in our computer that this is outpatient”.

“I agree….but I live in Switzerland. If you have a baby here you stay in the Swiss Clinique 7 days while in the US its 48 hours. I am not going to get a surgeon to operate on me and release me. Since you specialize in international medical insurance, doesn’t the computer indicate this is different in certain countries?”

“You’ll have to get your surgeon to write us a letter saying why you have to spend the night. Maybe you can make an appointment with him to write the letter.”

“It took me 3 months to get my first appointment with him!! Plus his office is closed…. its “Ski Week”** in Switzerland! Every person in Switzerland is on vacation. There is no way he can get this done in the timeline.”

“You must. Or NO guarantee letter for you.”

(frantic calls and detective work to find doctors’ personal contact info. Many butchered French conversations and Google translated emails later, I contact the doctor over email and he agrees to do the paperwork and fax it on his vacation)

(call insurance company Friday to confirm they get his fax he sent the day before)

“Ma’am, it takes 48 hours for faxes to reach our computer system. You’ll have to get back to us in 48 business hours. Monday end of day, maybe.”

(2 more days)

“Hello. You are working on my case. You should have received the doctors letter by now. Just checking on the status.”

“Ma’am, be advised that your case is with the medical review committee. These things take 10-15 business days. Please check back then. ”

(Supposed to be admitted the next day. I loose my s&^% on the insurance company)

Later that day, I got my letter. Thank goodness.

And no wonder that the insurance questions it. Here is just a cross section of my meals while staying in the Swiss Clinique, all standard:




A dessert also came around at 2pm each day with coffee.  The cream was always steamed and piping hot.

Sparkling water is on demand. Oh, and I can’t forget the Swiss made pen we got as a gift:

Regarding forms and documentations, EVERYTHING, must be translated from French in order for me to understand and sign. All pre-op, insurance, and post-op instructions. Google Translate has really been a good friend of mine lately. I’ll no longer complain about having to fill out paperwork in my first language.

Speaking of French, communication at the Clinique has been a bit challenging. Of course, I do not expect that the staff know English at all since this is a French-speaking country. And I do study French regularly. However, in medical situations: explaining levels of pain, what is wrong, and interpreting post op instructions clearly, it can be a bit challenging.

The first time they were trying to teach me how to walk with my stabilizing boots and crutches to get to the bathroom, I couldn’t do it. We tried to communicate in my tres mal français where to put the weight so I could improve my technique. I kept misunderstanding, so it took a while to master.

I have been improving because my roommate is a Swiss woman in her mid-seventies who is very chatty. She told me I can come visit her at her house when I can walk and we can talk French again.

In summary, the medical care is FANTASTIC here. If you think you might undergo any type of procedure in Switzerland, just be prepared for battles with your insurance and a crash course in French translation.

*All doctors offices and visits require upfront payment in Switzerland. You then have to file the claim and track your reimbursement with your insurance. Believe me, it’s a ton of fun. Don’t blame them though…a smart business practice.

**Our friends had their baby in the same Clinique as me this same week (so nice to have visitors!). They were supposed to have a C-section on Monday, but BOTH their primary doctor and his back up were injured while skiing during Ski Week. They had to push their delivery up a day so that the 3rd doctor could fit it in, apparently the only one in the practice who wasn’t injured during Ski Week. And yes, they stayed 7 days in the Clinique as well with their newborn!


2 thoughts on “Navigating International Insurance and The Swiss Clinique

  1. I love that losing your s*&^ got s*(& done with your US insurance company. The desserts look awesome-yummy. After that hospital food, y care package of snacks is going to look like dog food.  Enjoy~love you!

  2. Thanks for sharing the photos of your “clinique” food.  Lookingforward to those appetizing meals must have made your stay much more pleasant.I’m thankful you had such a good experience for your foot surgeryand that the doctor was successful in accomplishing his goal.

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