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The Swedish healthcare system is considered by many to be one of the world’s best, offering high quality, affordable care to all legal residents of Sweden, including expats.
The majority of the Swedish healthcare system is publicly funded. In theory, there are public as well as private healthcare providers, though both usually offer subsidised treatment under the country’s public healthcare system.
Health insurance coverage in Sweden is universal, with residents and nationals alike being eligible to use the public healthcare system. Patients can generally choose where to receive medical treatment and aren’t bound to any particular doctor, hospital or clinic. This includes private facilities which offer publicly funded services.
Sweden’s healthcare system operates on a decentralised basis, with responsibilities being divided up between national, regional and local government bodies. Most healthcare funding comes from regional taxes, so the availability of certain services can differ between county councils based on how much tax the council receives.
Not all medical professionals in public hospitals will be able to speak English, but non-Swedish-speaking patients have the right to be provided with an interpreter by law. Depending on the language requirements, the interpreter may assist with translation on site or via phone or video call.
Urgent cases are given priority in public hospitals, so it can take some time for non-urgent cases to be seen to. There are government policies in place which aim to reduce waiting times and impose limits on how long non-emergency patients can be made to wait for appointments or treatments.
The price of medical care is set by local authorities, so all facilities within the same county council charge the same prices. These prices are generally low as they are government subsidised. There is a strict limit on how much a patient can pay in for healthcare each year, and once this amount is reached, the cost of healthcare for the remainder of the year is covered by the government.
There are a small number of private healthcare providers not affiliated with the government in Sweden. These are uncommon and patients receiving treatment at these facilities will need to pay for it in full.
In practice, there is little or no difference in the quality of public and private treatment. However, privately operated healthcare does allow the patient to fast-track the lengthy waiting periods often experienced in the public sector.
If expats anticipate using one of the private healthcare centres, it is recommended that they invest in comprehensive private insurance to cover costs.
Pharmacies and medicines
Pharmacies in Sweden are known as “apotek” and can be easily found in city centres. Most open at 8am or 9am and close at 7pm or 8pm, and some pharmacies stay open 24/7.
Medication regulations vary from country to country and expats may find that they need a prescription in Sweden for medications they would have been able to purchase over the counter back home.
Medication is subsidised and available at a small fee for both locals and expats. Like most other medical expenses in Sweden, there is a yearly cap on how much patients pay for medication. Once the limit is reached, the government continues to pay with no co-payment from the patient.
For emergency ambulance, fire or police services, call 112. Operators speak both Swedish and English. Once dispatched, ambulances usually arrive within ten minutes in urban areas, though they can take longer to reach rural locations.
There is also a 24-hour line for non-emergency medical advice, which can be reached by dialling 1177. This line is operated by nurses, who can also give information and advice about healthcare within one’s county council.