The Finnish healthcare system is one of the best in the world. It is highly decentralized, and municipalities are responsible for organizing and funding healthcare facilities in cooperation with the National Health Insurance system (NHI).
In Finland, the public healthcare system covers all citizens, expats, and overseas students, except short-term travellers. However, emergency services are always available to everyone.
There are two primary types of healthcare facilities in Finland.
The public healthcare system in Finland is under the care of municipalities. They have the freedom to organize and provide healthcare services by themselves, collaborate with other municipalities, or purchase services from private companies. If necessary, healthcare facilities can collaborate with foreign entities, as well. As a citizen, expat, or overseas student in Finland, make sure to identify the municipality you reside in.
Who is entitled to public healthcare in Finland?
- All Finnish citizens
- Expats earning more than a given amount (usually around €700) per month, regardless of the duration of employment or the number of hours worked per week
- European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizens holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
- Expats with a residence permit
If you are a visitor or a short-term traveller in Finland, you will be able to use healthcare services in public healthcare facilities during an emergency. You will have to pay out of pocket for the treatment cost later.
Hence, buying travel medical insurance or expat health insurance would be a wise decision, as healthcare facilities in Finland are expensive.
Two Types of Public Healthcare
The public healthcare model is further divided into:
- Primary healthcare: Non-urgent medical care such as screening, vaccinations, health counselling, maternity care, child welfare medical examinations, and so on. These services are available at municipal health centers.
- Specialized healthcare: Provided at district hospitals for specialized treatment, such as surgeries, chronic illness, and so on.
The doctor will assess the level of care a patient requires and accordingly refer the patient to primary or specialized care. The patient can choose the healthcare facility but does not have any say in the type of care they receive.
Public healthcare services can be used by every individual possessing a Kela Card. Some part of the medical costs can be reimbursed through Kela.
What is a Kela Card?
It is a residence-based social security card for Finns and expats residing in the country. Kela approves social security services and benefits like national pension, unemployment security, sickness, parenthood allowance, income support, and rehabilitation.
The Kela card gives you access to subsidized medical care in Finland. This card is automatically sent to everyone covered under the Finnish social system.
Private Healthcare Services
The private healthcare system in Finland isn’t as expansive in its reach as the public healthcare system in the country.
Private hospitals provide both specialized as well as primary healthcare services. In Finland, private health services are partly subsidized, and you can reimburse your medical expenses using the Kela card.
Many Finns and expats opt for additional private health insurance even after being covered under public healthcare insurance because of:
- Access to exclusive doctors, practitioners, and other medical professionals who are not accessible through the public healthcare system
- Shorter wait times
- Flexible visiting hours, private rooms, better facilities, advanced medical procedures, and special care
While it is possible to use the Kela card at private clinics or hospitals, you should know that:
- You will have to pay for your medical expenses upfront, and then claim these back from the NHI system.
- The reimbursements are quite different from the original fees you may have paid.
- The sum you receive is generally not related to the total cost of the care you have received.
- Reimbursements are done on a case-by-case basis and not equal to the amount you have spent.
Therefore, as an expat, it is very important to buy Finnish expat health insurance to use private facilities.
What Expats in Finland Must Know
As an expat in Finland, there are a few points to be aware of:
- If you have a residence permit or a certificate issued by the Finnish Immigration Service that gives you the right to work in Finland, you will be entitled to public healthcare services.
- You are entitled to public healthcare until you are insured for earnings-related pension benefits or against employment accidents and unemployment in Finland. This means you are entitled to public health insurance until you have a job in the country—unlike Finnish citizens, who can avail of public healthcare benefits at all times.
- Employees covered by earnings-related pension insurance or by workers’ compensation are not eligible to receive medical reimbursements.
What is a Finland Resident Permit?
A resident permit is granted to expats who have continuously worked in Finland on a work visa for more than four years.
If you have moved to Finland recently, you need to buy Finland expat health insurance to cover your medical needs.
Why do Expats need Private Health Insurance in Finland?
As an employee or student in Finland, you may not be eligible for complete medical reimbursements before you get your permanent residency. Therefore, having Finnish private health insurance gets you financial coverage for these special healthcare requirements:
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Maternity coverage
- Emergency dental and optical treatment
- Inpatient and day-care treatment
- Outpatient treatment for up to three months
- Access to English-speaking medical staff
As an expat, you will automatically be enrolled in the Finnish social insurance system, which has its own set of benefits. However, you will not be able to use all the reimbursement benefits until you acquire a Finnish permanent residency.
Therefore, buying expat health insurance is highly recommended to avoid out-of-pocket medical expenses, and most importantly, to give you peace of mind.