Healthcare in Norway

20. September 2019.

You say the land of the fjords intrigues you.. then stay tuned!

If you are planning to stay in Norway for more than one year, you will need health care services. A National insurance scheme can cover part of the cost of the health care.

If your planned stay is less than one year, you must have a European Health Insurance Card to cover your medical expenses.

In Norway, all hospitals are funded by the public as part of the national budget. However, while medical treatment is free of charge for any person younger than the age of sixteen, residents who have reached adulthood must pay a deductible each year before becoming eligible for an exemption card. The card entitles one to free healthcare for the rest of that year.

All public hospitals in Norway are managed by four Regional Health Authorities (RHA) overseen by the Ministry of Health and Care Services. In addition to these public hospitals, there are a small number of privately owned health clinics currently operating. Norway has very high scores on various health performance rankings worldwide. Unique to the Norwegian healthcare system is that the state finances almost all of the patient’s costs. Patients with extremely high costs for severe and incurable illnesses receive a tax deduction.

Health expenditures are about $ 6,647 per head per year (2016), which is among the highest in the world. It has the highest share of nurses and midwives per capita in Europe – 1,744 per 100,000 residents in 2015. In 2017, 10.4% of the country’s GDP went to health spending. Norway has one of the lowest rates of private spending on health in the world, about 1% in 2010. The government prepares an annual health budget for next year, every year in December. This budget includes all costs within the health sector of Norway. Parliament only voted in some cases for additional funding later in the year, primarily for hospitals. In 2018, the government increased costs and resources for the health sector by 2% compared to last year, aiming to shorten waiting times and improve health services. Hospital care funding is allocated to regional health authorities after the budget for the coming year is adopted. They are responsible for distributing funding to hospitals and other health services at the local level.

Free health care is offered to sixteen-year-olds, younger, pregnant and lactating women, regardless of the coverage they have had in previous situations. All citizens are otherwise responsible for the annual deduction – which is around NOK 2040 (about $ 246.00). Nor does the Norwegian healthcare system cover specialized care for those over the age of 16 nor anyone who needs physiotherapy treatment.

Stay tuned to see how the health system works in Norway and what you can expect from it:

Once you are an official resident of the country and receive your social security number, you will be treated like anyone else in the health care system and you will be automatically assigned a local doctor and will receive the contact details of each GP by mail or email via Helfo. This can take up to 6 months, depending on availability, so if you need medical treatment in the meantime, you may be forced to find another GP who can admit you or refer you to a private clinic (which is more expensive but comes with a lot shorter waiting time for the appointment). Please note that to arrange an appointment with a specialist (gynecologist, dermatologist, etc.) you must first obtain a referral from your doctor. If you receive prescription medications, your GP will also renew and dispense these prescriptions.
If you are unhappy with the general practitioner assigned to you or want your doctor’s office a little closer to home, you have the option of changing your doctor twice a year and once more if you move to another city. This is done through Helfo, where you can find an overview of all GPs in your place of residence, along with information on how much space they have available and how long their waiting lists are.

If your GP refers you to a specialist, be prepared to wait. The healthcare system in Norway is quite effective if you need an ambulance, however, hospitals are usually crowded and specialists are quite busy, so if you are not a priority, you need to wait for your appointment. When receiving medical treatment, every citizen of Norway must pay his or her own part. For example, a consultation with a local doctor costs approx. 150NOK while a simple test (i.e. blood sample) costs about 50NOK extra. If you are being treated at a specialist and / or outpatient facility, you must pay an approx. 350NOK. The x-ray test costs approx. 250NOK. You pay the surcharge directly at your doctor’s office or you will receive an invoice if you receive outpatient care at a local hospital. If your medical expenses ( your total costs for counseling, testing, and prescription medication) exceed 2250NOK over one calendar year, you will receive an exemption card and no longer have to pay the additional payment or prescription medication by the end of the year. In order to receive the card (and a possible refund after exceeding the 2250NOK margin), you should keep your Helfo account updated with your bank account number. All medical expenses that are counted on the exemption card will be automatically registered in your Helfo account.

Please note that the cost of a visit to the dentist is not included in the exemption card and generally the patient must pay in full. Dental care in Norway is free only for children (0-18 years).

In terms of receiving emergency ambulance care, all immediate health care costs are covered. If hospitals in Norway cannot treat the patient, treatment abroad is organized free of charge.

You can buy over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or paracetamol at your local grocery store or pharmacy and pay for them yourself. Whether or not you have to pay for prescription drugs depends on the type of prescription you received from your doctor. More serious and / or long-term health conditions often end with a “blue prescription,” meaning you will only have to pay a fraction of the total cost for the drug. Generally, you will pay until you receive an exemption card, but never more than 520NOK at a time, i.e. the patient pays 39% of the drug. Getting a “white prescription” means that you will have to pay for the drug in full, unless your annual medication costs are more than 1891NOK. As Norway usually submits all the documentation electronically, you will most likely receive an electronic prescription, which means that you do not need to visit your doctor to download the prescription. Depending on the type of medication your doctor prescribes, you may need to call or visit your doctor first whenever you need to re-issue this prescription and / or medication.

Finally, we have one fun fact about Norway.
Norway is one of the richest countries in the world and regularly tops the charts. It is an oil-rich country that regularly accumulates oil revenues and invests in stocks. This is very clever, because this way wealth is available to future generations. The value of this fund, in 2014, exceeded one million NOK per capita. We can conclude that this made every Norwegian a rich man.

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