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The healthcare system in Sweden is widely regarded as being one of the best in the world. The tax-funded system provides equal access to everyone in the country, which has one of the best doctor-to-patient ratios in the world.
Public healthcare in Sweden
The Swedish government invests about a tenth of its GDP into healthcare every year, providing excellent medical care for all citizens, including expats who have a residence visa. This means that everyone who is a resident in Sweden, no matter their nationality, is entitled to the same medical care that Swedish nationals receive.
Fees for adults are nominal and are among the most affordable in Europe. The only problem with Sweden’s healthcare system is that there can occasionally be long waiting times before a patient is granted an appointment. Waiting-time policies have been implemented in a bid to reduce this issue. These stipulate that patients are to wait no longer than seven days for an appointment with a general doctor and no longer than 90 days to see a specialist or undergo surgery. In reality, these standards are only met for about two thirds of patients.
Expats who would like to benefit from Sweden’s healthcare system will have to apply for a personal identification number (personnummer) at the tax office. Expats who are not EU citizens and have not yet qualified for Swedish residency will have to take out private health insurance to cover their costs.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Private healthcare in Sweden
Private healthcare is not commonly used in Sweden, but the number of private healthcare facilities in the country has increased in recent years. Because private healthcare is not affiliated with the Swedish Social Insurance Administration, treatment is more expensive than in public facilities.
Health insurance in Sweden
Private health insurance in Sweden is rare, although some companies do offer private medical insurance to entice senior level employees. The chief benefit of such insurance is not the quality of healthcare – treatment will be at the same facilities and at the hands of the same doctors as public care – but rather the privilege of circumventing waiting times.
Expats who are not EU citizens should take out private health insurance to ensure that all their medical treatment will be covered. Expats should check with their insurance company in their home country to see if their policy will be valid in Sweden.
Pharmacies in Sweden
Pharmacies in Sweden can be found all around the country and can be identified by the Apoteket sign on the front door. They are usually open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Every large city in Sweden should also have a 24-hour pharmacy for emergencies.
Expats should note that many medicines which are available over the counter in their home countries may need a prescription in Sweden.
The number to call in an emergency in Sweden is 112, the European emergency number.