Content - Free choice of hospital

Free choice of hospital

What does ‘free choice of hospital’ mean?

Financing in Swiss hospitals has been regulated by the Swiss Health Insurance Act (KVG) since 1 January 2012. A free choice of hospital is one component of the revised KVG. How does this affect policyholders?

  • Until now, patients with basic health insurance could be treated as an inpatient only in their canton of residence.
  • They now have the option of selecting a hospital throughout Switzerland for their treatment – with complete freedom of choice.
  • This opens up new opportunities for policyholders with basic health insurance; for example, they may receive treatment at University Hospital Basel, even if they do not live in the canton of Basel-Stadt.

University Hospital Basel welcomes all patients, no matter their home canton or their insurance!

What’s the catch?

Free choice of hospital is a good thing. But it is not always fully funded by basic health insurance and the canton of residence.

  • Not all treatment in Swiss hospitals received outside the home canton will be fully covered by basic health insurance.
  • Basic insurance policyholders must contribute to certain out-of-canton treatments.
  • Unpleasant surprises such as a large hospital bill are possible if not all information is known.

We want to provide a clear explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of free choice of hospital to our patients.

General information about free choice

It is clear that a free choice of hospital has consequences for the Swiss hospital system. Here are some specifics.

  • The cantons define their hospital lists; these lists will include home canton hospitals and any out-of-canton hospitals. The canton of Basel-Landschaft, for example, has decided that University Hospital Basel will feature on its list of hospitals from 1 January 2014.
  • If a hospital, no matter in which canton, is on the hospital list of your canton of residence, basic health insurance and the canton will cover the full cost of treatment.
  • However, if basic insurance policyholders choose a hospital not on their home canton’s list, the canton of residence and basic health insurance will pay only the rate of a comparable hospital (reference hospital) from their own canton.

Free choice at University Hospital Basel

What does this mean for patients of University Hospital Basel?

  • In the canton of Basel-Stadt, University Hospital Basel is approved for all inpatient services on the cantonal hospital list.
  • It is therefore a listed hospital for all residents of the canton of Basel-Stadt.
  • Other cantons can and will place University Hospital Basel on their list for certain treatments.

For example, a patient from Rheinfelden (canton Aargau) can choose University Hospital Basel for heart surgery, even if they do not have any supplementary insurance. There will be no additional costs. The prerequisite is that the selected hospital with the desired treatment is listed on a patient’s home canton – in this case, the canton of Aargau.

However, University Hospital Basel is not a listed hospital in all cases, or for all basic insurance policyholders residing in the canton of Aargau.

For example, a patient from Rheinfelden can choose the University Hospital Basel as a place to give birth, even if she does not have any supplementary insurance. As University Hospital Basel is not on the list of hospitals in the canton of Aargau for easy births without complications, the canton of Aargau and the basic insurance coverage will pay only the reference rate of the internal cantonal hospital (i.e. Kantonsspital Aarau). Any additional costs (the difference between the tariff of the treatment location and reference tariff) must be paid by the patient.

If the rate of University Hospital Basel is higher than that of Kantonsspital Aarau, the patient must pay the difference out of their own pocket.

The key question

Despite the free choice of hospital, there are cases in which basic insurance and the canton of residence contribute only part of the cost of inpatient treatment. It is therefore necessary to clarify before admission whether the patient will receive any hospital bills later, apart from the franchise and deductible. The key question concerning free choice of hospital is: Will the canton and basic insurance cover all the costs?

At University Hospital Basel, all costs will be covered:

  • if it is an outpatient procedure,
  • if the patient has supplementary insurance (general ward throughout Switzerland, semi-private, private),
  • if a patient residing in the canton of Basel-Stadt receives treatment at University Hospital Basel,
  • if it involves an emergency inpatient treatment,
  • if University Hospital Basel appears on the hospital list of the home canton for the treatment in question.

Supplementary health insurance

Patients with supplementary insurance (general ward throughout Switzerland, semi-private, private) have nothing to worry about under the new financing system.

  • For supplementary policyholders, the insurance company assumes any differences in costs.
  • It is also guaranteed that there will be no additional costs for inpatient emergency treatment, no matter the insurance of the patient.

Outstanding issues

This information does not completely answer all questions regarding extra costs. This is because

  • cantons redefine their hospital lists annually.
  • Each canton continuously adjusts the reference tariffs for out-of-canton hospitalizations. Therefore, a possible difference in rates for basic insurance policyholders can be estimated only approximately.


The facts can be summarized as follows:

  • Changes in hospital financing have no impact on patients with supplementary insurance. As in the past, you may be treated in a hospital of your choice at no extra cost.
  • The free choice of hospital also applies in principle for patients without supplementary insurance. However, they may receive an invoice from the chosen hospital if the hospital is not on the approved list of their home canton and the rates between the cantons differ.

The choice of hospital is therefore not free of cost or consequences in every case. If in doubt, please ask us – we will be happy to help!

University Hospital Basel

Reception and Admission
Petersgraben 4
4031 Basel 
Tel. +41 61 265 44 93
Mo–Fr 8.30 – 16.30