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Alternative medicine Q&As

What are alternative medicine and complementary therapy?

Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine is a natural alternative to orthodox medicine based on a wide range of natural practices, products and therapies. It involves invasive (injections, cupping, acupuncture) and prescriptive treatment as well as technical equipment. The treatment process is broken down into individual steps such as medical history, diagnosis, treatment plan, treatment and evaluation.

The four specialisations of alternative medicine are classified as comprehensive systems of medicine:

  • Ayurveda medicine (AVM)
  • Homoeopathy
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • Traditional European Medicine (TEM)

Complementary medicine

Complementary therapy primarily refers to therapy methods that activate and regulate the body’s self-healing powers. Unlike alternative medicine it involves neither invasive nor drug-based treatment and requires less equipment.

Complementary therapy comprises treatment involving a continuous process of:

  • Touch
  • Movement
  • Breathing
  • Energy

This process is supplemented by instructions and consultations.


What benefits are covered by Sanitas under basic insurance?

Provided that treatment is provided by a doctor (Dr. Med.) with the appropriate qualifications from the Swiss Medical Association, the following benefits are covered by basic insurance in accordance with the tariff of the canton of residence:

  • Acupuncture
  • Anthroposophical medicine
  • Medicines prescribed by traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
  • Classical homoeopathy by doctors
  • Phytotherapy

The annual deductible and copayment are applied on settlement of these benefits.

Under what conditions does Sanitas supplementary insurance cover costs of alternative medical treatment?

Sanitas supplementary insurance covers the cost of alternative medicine treatment, provided that the therapist is a full member of the Swiss Naturopathic Doctors’ Association (NVS) or is certified by the Swiss Foundation for Complementary Medicine (ASCA) or the Empirical Medicine Register (EMR).

Costs are only covered if the condition of clinical significance is met. Preventive treatments are not covered.

You’ll find a list of therapy methods recognised by Sanitas here.

What do the acronyms NVS and SPAK, ASCA and EMR stand for?

The Swiss Association of Naturopaths (NVS, Naturärzte Vereinigung Schweiz), the Swiss Foundation for Complementary Medicine (ASCA, Schweizerische Stiftung für Komplementärmedizin) and the Empirical Medicine Register (EMR, Erfahrungsmedizinsches Register) are independent bodies responsible for quality assurance in alternative medicine. They check the quality of alternative therapists’ qualifications and credentials. Therapists who meet the quality criteria are awarded the appropriate quality label (SPAK, ASCA or EMR accreditation). Sanitas uses this accreditation as proof of professional qualification and training in the treatment of medical conditions.

Does Sanitas cover the cost of massages?

Yes, Sanitas covers the cost of various massage techniques, provided that the patient has a health impairment that meets the condition of clinical significance.

Why have I received a questionnaire to clarify the benefits from Sanitas?

To check whether a treatment is effective, expedient and economical in accordance with our general terms of insurance, we need a report. For this purpose, Sanitas provides you with a questionnaire to be completed by the therapist providing treatment to determine whether the symptoms meet the condition of clinical significance.

Why doesn’t Sanitas cover the cost of preventive treatment from alternative medicine?

Under alternative medicine Sanitas covers the costs for treatment of illness or the consequences of an accident. Sanitas supplementary insurance plans cover separate benefits for preventive treatment.

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