Living in Norway?
Healthcare in Norway
The Best Country to Live In
Do you value a healthy work-and-life balance? Norway may be the right place for you! The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has declared this Scandinavian country the best country to live in: Norway ranked first place in the Human Development Index 2016. The life expectancy in Norway is higher than ever before — it increased by 2016 to approximately 84 and 80 years for women and men respectively. Public health is excellent in Norway, thanks to the country’s high-quality welfare program.
Norway has introduced a universal, public healthcare system, which is financed by the country’s tax revenues and a national insurance scheme. Thus, healthcare is accessible for all legal residents, reflecting the importance of egalitarian principles in Norwegian society. This may well account for the low poverty rates and the comparatively equal distribution of wealth among the population in Norway, too.
The Public Health System
During the 1900s, the welfare state took shape in Norway: for example, the modern public healthcare system (folketrygden) steadily developed. The healthcare policy is controlled centrally by the government; the system is financed through taxes, social security contributions, and out-of-pocket co-payments, and it is equally accessible by all residents, regardless of their income. With a total annual health expenditure of 8.3% of the GDP (as of 2016), this sector also acts as one of the largest employers in Norway.
In general, the responsibility of providing health services lies with the municipalities. Each municipality is obligated to provide primary health services to its residents, in the form of general practitioners for instance, sometimes known as family doctors. Specialized care, on the other hand, is provided by four regional health authorities responsible for controlling specialized care.
In emergencies, you should ring 113 if you require an ambulance. All aspects of an inpatient hospital visit are free, as most Norwegian hospitals are owned and funded by the state. Expats can also turn to the small number of private hospitals and health centers, of course. As a legal resident, you are generally free to choose at which hospital or healthcare facility you want to receive treatment.
The National Insurance Scheme
As an expat, you can be a member of Norway’s National Insurance Scheme, even if you are not a Norwegian citizen or a national of an EU or EEA member state. To qualify for benefits included under the National Insurance Scheme, it is essential that you are a legal resident of Norway and are planning to stay for twelve months at least. However, even as a non-resident, you automatically become a member of the folketrygden if you have legal employment in Norway.
As a member of the National Insurance Scheme, you must pay contributions together with your taxes. The contribution is usually 8.2% of your personal income (as of 2016), and it will be deducted together with your taxes. Keep in mind that you may not be granted all insurance benefits under the National Insurance Scheme. Some benefits require you to have been a member of the National Insurance Scheme for a while, such as certain disability benefits, which require you to have been insured for three years prior to claiming allowance.
Even if you are not automatically covered by the National Insurance Scheme in Norway, you can apply for voluntary membership. In this case the contribution is based on the level of coverage you would like. This applies if you want to stay in Norway for a period of three to twelve months, have strong ties to Norway, and most importantly, will not be working during your stay.
Going to the Doctor in Norway
It is easy for expats to find a doctor once they are registered in the National Population Register (folkeregister) and have acquired a Norwegian identity number. You will automatically be assigned a general practitioner (GP) by the Norwegian Health Economics Administration (HELFO).
You may only visit a specialist doctor after receiving a referral from a GP, unless you are prepared to pay for a private service, allowing you to see a specialist directly and skip long queues. It is possible to change GP up to twice in one year, and this can be done easily online through helsenorge.no or HELFO’s GP scheme telephone service line: 810 59 500. You can also contact your municipality and ask for available public health services in your area.
In the case of an emergency illness, outside of the general practice hours, either phone the out-of-hours primary care service on 116 117 or, in more serious instances, head to the nearest accident and emergency department.
Expats must note, however, that visits to the GP are not completely free — you usually have to pay a small fee (136 NOK during office hours), with the National Insurance Scheme paying the remaining amount. You are entitled to an exemption card (frikort) once you have paid 2,205 NOK for health services, entitling you to free services for the rest of the year.
Prescription drugs are either free or subsidized, depending on a “white” or “blue” classification: white is completely free, while blue prescriptions require you to pay 15% of the cost.
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