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Healthcare in Sweden

Expat life in Sweden appeals to you? You aren’t alone! The quality of life attracts many expats every year. While the cost of living in Sweden may seem a bit steep, you get an amazing experience in return! Our guide to the “Land of the Midnight Sun” gives you a good idea of life in Sweden.
Sweden's healthcare system is the main reason for the Swedes' good health.

The Swedish healthcare system is publicly funded and largely decentralized. The government has taken great measures to allow every resident access to heavily subsidized healthcare services, among the most affordable in Europe with services for under-20-year-olds being free of charge. The quality of these services is also reflected in the high life expectancy of Swedes, which is over 80. In fact, nearly 20% of the population is 65 or older.

Sweden reinvests approximately 9% of its GDP on healthcare every year. The central government, county councils and municipalities share the responsibility to provide people with good quality medical services. The Health and Medical Service Act (Hälso- och sjukvårdslagen, HSL) gives county councils and municipalities more freedom in this regard.

At the Forefront

Sweden really does show itself to be one of the world leaders in healthcare. Swedish maternal care, for instance, is often highlighted for its success and the significant contributions it has made over the years. The Swedish Association of Midwives has been training midwives for over 300 years.

In 2013, the OECD stated that the Swedish healthcare system is often considered a model for other countries. Not only does Sweden have the highest number of elderly care workers per capita, but the country also has a very high satisfaction rate with 90% of primary care receivers saying they were treated with respect and consideration. It is not hard to see, then, why Sweden is ranked 8th out of 36 countries on the OECD health index, especially given that patients have to contribute very little of the overall cost of their healthcare.  

Different Routes to Healthcare

Most Swedes and expats in Sweden turn to healthcare centers to receive medical care. These centers usually employ different medical specialists and thus offer different kinds of health services to their patients. The patients, on the other hand, are free to choose their doctor or healthcare facility as they please.

That way, you are not limited to certain hospitals or doctor’s practices but can get treatment anywhere throughout the country. Since 2010, this includes private practices and hospitals. The logic ruling the Swedish healthcare system is that of bringing market logic to the public sector, although not privatizing it. By subsidizing healthcare for private clinics, the Swedish government hoped to increase competitiveness and quality of care, a strategy which has proved effective.

Aside from basic medical treatments, Sweden offers different special hospitals including those for children, expectant mothers and youth clinics. Throughout the country there are various specialist care providers, to which you will need to travel if you are in need of a highly specialist treatment. You should memorize the emergency number for your time in Sweden, which is 112.

Healthcare Improvements and Private Insurance

What has also proved effective is the healthcare guarantee, which was introduced in Sweden in 2005, promising to reduce waiting times for treatment or operations to a maximum of 90 days. If this time is exceeded, patients are offered care elsewhere, the cost for which, including travel costs, is covered by the patient’s county council. Due to this guarantee, 78% of patients felt they received the care they needed in 2013.

 Despite this high level of satisfaction, one in ten Swedes have private health insurance, however this is largely provided by employers to attract high-level employees and is by no means necessary for living in Sweden. It is, however, important to remember to take out private health insurance if you are a non-EU citizen and to ensure that it is valid for your time living in Sweden.

Healthcare Regions and Fees

Sweden is divided into four different healthcare regions:

  • Gotland
  • Halland
  • Skåne
  • Western Götaland

In terms of fees for medical treatment, hospital stays usually amount to approximately 80 SEK per day while fees for primary care are between 100 and 200 SEK. For specialist care, you will have to pay an additional fee of up to 350 SEK.

While paying medical fees may be a drag, you will be glad to hear that there is a limit on individual costs per year. If you have paid a total of between 900 and 1,100 SEK during one year, medical consultations within 12 months of the first consultation are free of charge. This may vary, though, depending on your health insurance provider. There is a similar high-cost ceiling for prescription medication.



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Nathan Reed

"With InterNations I quickly connected with other Canadian members who became close friends over time."

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