Healthcare for Expats in Sweden
Sweden boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The taxpayer-funded system is decentralized and grants everyone in Sweden equal access to healthcare.
How to access healthcare in Sweden
Each county council determines the fees payable for primary care. This varies between SEK 100-200. For the first 10 days of a stay in hospital, the patient fee is SEK 80 per day. This decreases to SEK 60 for everyday thereafter.
There is a yearly maximum that a patient can spend on medical consultations. Once a patient has spent between SEK 900 to 1,100 in a 12-month period, any further medical treatments within one year of the first appointment are free.
If you are under 20 years of age, medical care is free. A yearly maximum also applies to how much a person can spend on prescription medications. With the exception of Stockholm, the maximum spend on prescription medicines is SEK 2,200 per year. In Stockholm, it is SEK 1,800.
Waiting periods for healthcare
In 2005, Sweden introduced a guarantee that the waiting periods for specific surgeries such as tonsil removal and knee replacements are a maximum of 90 days. If this waiting period is exceeded, the government will fund the treatment at an alternative facility and will cover transport costs. Recent statistics have indicated that 90 percent of patients see their specialist within 90 days and receive any necessary surgery within a further 90 days. If a matter is considered urgent, an appointment with a specialist is guaranteed within 3 days.
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Private Healthcare in Sweden
Due to the effectiveness and affordability of Sweden’s public healthcare system, very few people invest in private health insurance or healthcare. Rest assured, there are several private healthcare providers throughout the country if you would prefer private healthcare.
The Swedish name for a pharmacy is Apoteket. Most Apotekets are open from 10am- 6pm on weekdays and 10am-4pm on Saturdays. Most cities will have a 24-hour Apoteket. It is important to bear in mind that many medicines that are available over the counter in your home country are likely to need a prescription in Sweden. For example, anything containing pseudoephedrine such as Sudafed will require a prescription.
The aging population
In Sweden, the average life expectancy of women is 83.7 years and the average for men is 80.1 years. With such a long life span comes an elderly population and the government has regulations in place to ensure that the health and wellbeing of the elderly population is accounted for. Those living in Sweden have a right to receive care in their own home or in a state run facility. Swedish municipalities are charged with the responsibly to provide care to the elderly.
Improvements to the system
The government constantly strives to improve the healthcare system. This is done through National eHealth and the National Patient Survey.
National eHealth is an initiative aiming to improve the handling of sensitive medical related information such as patient records and e-prescriptions. Sweden was the first country to adopt a streamlined electronic database of patient information, which, with the patients consent, may be accessed by their different healthcare providers. Similar solutions have been adopted internationally in countries such as Australia and the United States.
The National Patient Survey
The National Patient Survey aims to measure the quality of the healthcare system. It asks questions such about the treatments, the care received and patient confidence in their care. The results of this survey are used to advance the system.
There are two important healthcare related phone numbers in Sweden. The first is the emergency phone number, 112. This is the same number that is used throughout most of Europe. If you have a disability, you can pre-register to SMS the number instead of call. This is only available from Swedish phone numbers.
A healthcare advice line can be reached on 1177. The advice line aims to improve access to healthcare and boost the patient’s situation. The line is open twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Advisement nurses will answer questions regarding healthcare. They will also decide whether further care is necessary and can recommend local healthcare providers.