The Swedish healthcare system has many interesting aspects. It’s one of the most developed health care systems in the world. The system is so far ahead of the curve compared to other industrialized nations that it has been studied, emulated, and discussed by people worldwide for decades now.
Before travelling to Sweden, consider Swedish travel insurance, it helps you save money in case of an unexpected illness or injury.
Many countries have adopted ideas from Swedish medicine, down to more minor details like how surgical tools are handled and sterilized.
There is a lot to say about the health care situation in Sweden, and almost as much has been said. For now, we’ll focus on what is, generally speaking, necessary knowledge for someone coming from another country to live here.
This way, you don’t have to wonder why things work the way they do. You can dive right in, absorbing the culture and enjoying firsthand the benefits of living in one of the world’s best healthcare systems.
First, let’s get started with some fundamental facts about how it all works; who pays for what and why?
Swedish National Health Insurance
The Swedish National Health Insurance (called “Folkhemmet”) is funded primarily by taxes. In the case of Swedish citizens, this is a mandatory deduction from your paycheck.
For people who aren’t citizens of Sweden, there are unique insurance systems that you may apply for that will cover if you’re here temporarily or if you’ve moved to Sweden for other reasons (like work).
You may also visit private healthcare providers at any time (if you can afford it). However, if you want to be treated at a public hospital, you must choose the “Primary Health Care” option before seeing a physician or getting admitted.
It brings us to another interesting aspect of how things work here. If you seek treatment outside your district’s Primary Health Care office without first choosing them as your Primary Health Care provider, you may be charged a fee.
Primary Health Care
As the name implies, this is where it all begins when you consider treatment. Many foreigners who come here think they’ll be able to see any doctor they want and get reimbursed by their insurance like in most other countries. However, if your home country has a socialized medicine system, you will probably have to pay for services yourself because the countries’ home country agreements don’t cover you here.
Primary Health Care offices are found in every municipality throughout Sweden. They’re all required by law to offer emergency appointments and scheduled visits to patients with acute conditions at no cost.
If you need to be seen by a doctor, you will usually only have to wait one or two days, if anything. If you call in during the morning hours (8-11 AM) and say that it’s an urgent matter, you may be able to get in during lunchtime (12-1 PM).
Primary Health Care physicians are available for telephone consultations 24/7 and have a service that sends a nurse to your home if you’re too sick to get out of bed. This service is available during the daytime (8-4 PM) Monday through Friday (most offices are closed on Saturdays and Sundays).
Secondary Medical Care
Since Primary Health Care is such a well-developed system, you can imagine it would be easy to get referrals to see an expert.
That’s precisely what you’ll have access to if your Primary Health Care doctor has a suspicion that your condition requires a specialist’s attention or if you’re recommended for a check-up by a doctor at the office.
Although you can choose any doctor from their list of specialists, you can’t visit them directly. You will need to call the office and explain why you need to be seen, and they’ll assign a date for your appointment.
Health Insurance Sweden
When it comes to health insurance Sweden, the only real need for concern is receiving adequate care.
First, you’ll always have access to some form of healthcare through your Primary Health Care provider.
Second, if you’re staying in Sweden temporarily or are here with a company for work, some options will provide coverage while you’re here. Of course, these programs may not cover everything you need if your stay is extended, which brings us to the next point.
As soon as you need more specialized treatment than what’s offered in Primary Health Care, you will have to pay for it yourself. Although this may be frustrating, you’ll probably find that the cost is not much compared to what would be spent in your home country.
The Swedish healthcare system is affordable, easy to understand, and available to everyone.
Even if you’re not covered by home country agreements or other types of insurance, it’s still worth your while to make an application for Primary Health Care coverage under the Swedish system. It will cover disease prevention services, maternity care, physician visits for common conditions, pediatric care, and other services you might need.
Most importantly, the system is designed to give everyone access to healthcare regardless of income or social status. It has been ranked as one of the best systems in the world despite its high taxes because it’s so effective at providing affordable care for all Swedes.