Healthcare in Sweden

Stethoscope with national flag conceptual series - SwedenSweden is widely regarded to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Boasting a dazzling array of new hospitals and a plentiful supply of doctors, nurses and state-of-the-art medical technology, it’s no real surprise to find that the country’s decentralised; mostly taxpayer-funded system is extremely popular with a large proportion of residents.

The entire Swedish population is entitled to equal access to healthcare services providing they are in possession of a resident’s permit. While this is not a problem for expats who arrive in the country to work for an employer, those without employment or who are self employed will need to prove that they have some form of private health insurance cover before Swedish immigration authorities will issue them with a residence permit. Expats who come from other EU countries should be able to take advantage of reciprocal health agreements to make sure they are covered for healthcare treatment from the day they arrive although they will not be able to use this forever.

Sweden’s healthcare system is largely the responsibility of county councils and, in some cases, municipal governments. Swedish government policy states that every county council must provide residents with good quality health and medical care, and work to promote good health for the entire population. All county councils place a high level of emphasis on quality of patient care and a national healthcare guarantee was introduced in 2005 (and revised in 2012) which means no patient should have to wait more than seven days for an appointment at a community health care centre, 90 days for an appointment with a specialist and 90 days for an operation or treatment once it has been determined what care is needed. If this waiting time is exceeded then patients will be offered care elsewhere, with the cost, including any travel costs, paid for by their county council.

While, as already stated, healthcare in Sweden is mostly funded by taxpayers, it also receives contributions from the state government and capped patient fees – this means that, even for taxpayers, there is no such thing as free universal healthcare in Sweden (aside, that is, for those under 20 years of age for whom all healthcare, including dental work, is free). However, these capped fees are very affordable and once you have paid a certain amount in a year you will not be expected to pay anymore (for that year). For example, consultation with a public healthcare doctor will cost a patient between SEK 100 to SEK 150 (approximately £9-£14) per visit while the fee for a hospital stay is SEK 80 (around £7.50) per day for the first ten days, and SEK 60 (roughly £5.50) thereafter. Once a patient has paid a total of between SEK 900 and 1,100 (depending on where you live) in the course of a year, medical consultations within 12 months of the first consultation are free of charge. There is a similar ceiling for prescription medication, so nobody pays more than SEK 2,200 (approx. £205) in a 12-month period before receiving prescriptions for free.

Traditionally, private healthcare has not been that sought after in Sweden due to the high level of service and top quality facilities provided by the public system. However, with an increasing number of expats having arrived to live in the country in recent years, many of whom will not be covered by the state healthcare system, the number of people taking out private healthcare insurance is increasing steadily. Some Swedes do take out private insurance if they wish to access treatment faster, but due to the aforementioned national healthcare guarantee this will not necessarily be a pressing issue. There are a number of different private healthcare insurance providers operating in Sweden.

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