The Scandinavian nation of Sweden has long been seen as a model country, a democracy that has maximized its potential. The two prime destinations for expatriates are Gothenburg and Stockholm. The nation is obsessed with punctuality, and the work-life balance is excellent.
From free education to healthcare and perfectly maintained cities, Sweden is an ideal location for an expat to live. The Swedish society believes in altruism and sharing, and nowhere is this more visible than in the Swedish public healthcare system.
However, as an expat, it is still better to be safe than sorry. We would highly recommend purchasing expatriate medical insurance before you settle down.
The Swedish Public Healthcare System - A Model Worthy of Emulation
The Swedish healthcare system is founded on the fundamental pillars of equity, public funding, cost-effectiveness, and decentralization.
Before we study the system, it is worth noting that Sweden stresses expert training. A nurse receives a three-year university degree and can only be employed after rigorous study. An OECD study in 2017 showed that the nation, which was once the poorest in Europe, has the best cancer survival rate in all of the continent and 3.3 doctors per thousand, one of the highest in the world.
The healthcare system is divided into several layers - primary (close to home), emergency, inpatient, specialist, dental, and elective.
The country is divided into more than 20 health circles with a population of about 100,000 each. There are more than 50 general hospitals and almost 10 highly advanced facilities. The biggest and best is the famed Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, which has about 1,600 beds and counting.
The cost of healthcare is covered by the government. Only about 3% of annual health care costs come out of citizens’ pockets. Any upfront expenses, including the price of medicine, is regulated. Citizens and residents receive healthcare absolutely free.
As a resident of Sweden, you would automatically pay income tax that includes the cost of healthcare. Upon arrival, you would be issued a personnummer, or personal ID, that allows you to take advantage of state-funded healthcare with any local GP, or vårdcentraler.
Cracks in Sweden's Public Healthcare System
However, there are fissures in the system. Despite repeated reforms and efficient bureaucracy, the wait times for treatment keep growing. Swedish law mandates that no patient should have to wait more than 90 days for a visit to a specialist or elective surgery. In reality, this is closer to a year.
Even emergency rooms have an average wait time of four hours. Conditions such as strokes and cardiac arrest need immediate care, and four hours is too long. In Västerbotten County, for example, the median wait for cancer surgery is 271 days, enough time for the disease to spread and kill the patient.
What plagues the rest of Europe is also a problem in Sweden - the system has not been able to cope with an aging population.
Private Hospitals in Sweden - A Growing Trend
Private healthcare has thus far not been common in Sweden, but it is growing at a rapid pace. At the end of 2017, more than 50% of Swedes had some degree of private medical insurance.
The private healthcare system is also funded by the government but employs private doctors. Basically, you could opt for the unpaid, slower system or a paid but faster system, both operated by the same health council.
The most well-known private facility is St. Göran's Hospital in Stockholm, which has about 1,500 beds and counting.
Swedish Expat Health Insurance - A Necessity That Can't Be Avoided
It goes without saying that you don't want to wait four hours in an emergency room. Expat health insurance is a must for expats living in Sweden.
However, you need to properly understand the various terms and conditions before you can buy a policy that is perfect for you. What do you need to watch out for?
- Determine your needs: Are you quite young and have healthy teeth? Then you could probably opt out of dental insurance. This is not the case if you are over 40, when you may begin falling prey to excruciating toothaches in the middle of the night. In the same way, you could eliminate several riders, depending on your health history. Of course, you would need to review these whenever you renew the policy.
- Portability - It makes little sense to buy a new policy every time you are in a different country. From Sweden, you can visit other European nations quite quickly. Sweden is dreadfully cold, and you might decide to take short weekend vacations often. Why buy new travel insurance every time? Opt for a policy that applies to all of the EU and UK, and be free of any additional headaches during holidays.
- Sub-limits - A policy needs not only a high limit, but also reasonable sub-limits. Sub-limits are various recurring expenses such as bed charges, ICU costs, and ventilator rent. Some policies prefer to set a ceiling of 1-2% of the total policy value for bed charges. Hence, you should opt for a high limit and fair sub-limit policy.
- Critical Illness - All illnesses are not created equally. Some are significantly more expensive to treat. The flu costs a few thousand dollars to treat at a private facility, but the cost of cancer treatment can run north of half a million. You could opt out of coverage for certain critical illnesses like cancer, finding them easier to treat in your home country. This lowers the premium and makes your plan more affordable.
- Evacuation - The policy must pay for the costs of medical evacuation and repatriation. In case you suffer an accident and need time to recuperate, it is easier to do this in your home country. In that case, your insurance company must be able to provide transportation back home as soon as possible.
Stay Healthy with Expat Health Insurance
The best option that you have is to purchase expatriate medical insurance. You will find an assortment of expat health policies that are affordable and have generous terms.
Compare plans, buy the one that best fits your circumstances, and always remain always covered with our knowledgeable, experienced customer support staff.