There’s a stereotype that nordic countries have the best healthcare and quality of life on the planet. Some call it socialism, others call it compassion, but we’re here to look at the simple facts. How does Sweden’s healthcare system work, for either citizens or expats? What are the benefits and the drawbacks?

If you’re moving to Sweden and looking for health coverage, you can fill out this form to receive a free quote for a Cigna healthcare plan. Cigna offers easy customizable plans that can cover you and their 95 million customers internationally.

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    % of Swedish citizens with health insurance
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Swedish healthcare system explained

Every country’s healthcare system is different, so let’s have a look at the red tape and machinations of Sweden’s healthcare – the financials and the forms behind making sure you’re taken care of.

To start, one of the most interesting things that makes Sweden’s healthcare system unique is the decentralization. Sweden is broken up into hundreds of municipalities, and each of these districts is responsible for handling its own healthcare.

They all have to follow a general guideline set by the main Swedish government, but are left to their own devices when it comes to reaching these goals.

Sweden pin

If a giant red pin falls on you from outer space, you'll be well taken care of when it comes to your recovery

How does Sweden pay for healthcare?

Sweden funds their healthcare system with taxes. Taxes that people pay toward their municipality are used to fund hospitals and pay medical professionals. This works well, as the country is well staffed with doctors, and has a healthy population of young and elderly alike.

Every municipality has slightly different rules on how much of your income will be taxed, and how much of that tax goes into healthcare specifically, but they’re all well-funded and efficient.

Does Sweden have universal healthcare?

It does indeed! While it doesn’t have an official name, Sweden’s healthcare system covers almost all medical conditions for all of their citizens. From any age, any address, any social standing – if you’re a citizen of Sweden, you’re set up for life, with the only exception being dental procedures, the availability of which might vary depending on where you live.

Just like the funding rules, the exact procedures that are covered, as well as the extent of their coverage, will vary depending on the exact municipality you’re living in.

If you’re not a Swedish national, this does vary slightly based on your status within the country. There is more detail further below.

You'll need to call 112.

How good is healthcare in Sweden?

It’s nice that it’s affordable, but none of this matters if it’s not up to a good standard. But it’s a good thing that the quality of Sweden's healthcare is considered to be one of the world’s best, ranking at a very solid third place on a list of the world’s best healthcare systems.

The only drawback from their system as a whole is that sometimes wait times can be a bit excessive. In theory, the Swedish government doesn't want anyone waiting over 90 days at an absolute maximum, but there are cases of people having to wait longer than that.

Healthcare in Sweden after Brexit

This is all nice if you’re becoming a Swedish citizen, but if you’re living there on a visa, or even just travelling, you might be wondering about how many of these benefits really apply to you.

EU Expats will need to sign up for a personal ID number (known as a “personnummer”) at their tax office. After this, they’ll be able to take full advantage of Sweden’s healthcare. 

However, expats from countries outside the EU will need to resort to private insurance, with their only route to Sweden’s universal healthcare being full fledged citizenship.

Since the UK left the EU in January 2021, there are three main ways to access Sweden's state healthcare system:

  • Registering as a resident, which will allow you to sign up for healthcare
  • Using a UK-issued European Health Insurance Card or UK Global Health Insurance Card if you're staying in Sweden temporarily
  • Registering a UK-issued S1 with a Swedish insurance fund

If you're a resident in Sweden, you can register with the health system, no matter if you're employed, self-employed, or unemployed.

The national health system is usually free, but you may still end up paying for some treatments.

In any case, you may well want to get a quote for a Cigna plan. You can customise your plan to make sure you’re not paying for anything you don’t need, while keeping you and your family safe and healthy.

Medical insurance in Sweden

Even though the public system is top-notch, you might be looking for a cherry on top. If you can afford it, going for private medical insurance can patch up any shortcomings of the public system. Even the best countries are home to private insurance providers, even if it’s not particularly common, like in Sweden.

As of 2017, around 6.5% of the population of Sweden were enrolled in private insurance. The number is slowly rising, but this is likely due to more people being able to comfortably afford it and thinking “why not?” rather than an increasing need for private coverage.

The benefits of medical cover in Sweden

The quality of the country’s healthcare is essentially standardized, so you won’t be getting any incredibly advanced care if you go private. Instead, you’ll probably be able to get more immediate treatment. Like we mentioned, wait times can be a bit of a pain, so to jump these lines, private treatment could be a good idea.

Swedish healthcare

This image is just for show – you won't be spending much money at all on your own healthcare

The cost of private insurance in Sweden

It’d be nice to have private insurance on top of public coverage, but depending on the cost, you might not want to shell out to pay for it. 

An insurance plan for an individual will run a yearly cost of around 4,000 SEK, which is around £350. Not too much at all!

But bear in mind that this number will fluctuate, depending on a number of factors, include:

  • Your age
  • The plan/provider you opt for
  • The amount of coverage (some plans cover you in more than one country)
  • Existing health issues

Next steps

The stereotype is true after all – Sweden crushes it in their healthcare department. It’s accessible, high quality, and exists to help people, as all healthcare services should.

But if your plans for the future involve setting foot in Sweden in any way, you still might be interested in a private healthcare plan. If this is the case, have a look at Cigna. By filling out the form, you’ll be able to get a quote for a healthcare plan. They offer customizable, international plans that can keep you safe across the globe.