With its rugged natural beauty, unique heritage, and high standard of living - Norway has long been a popular destination for expats.
Norway also takes the wellbeing of its citizens and residents very seriously, with a focus on ensuring people enjoy a great work-life balance and a healthy lifestyle. It also happens to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. So, whether your career takes you to the vibrant capital city of Oslo, or you’re planning a peaceful retirement in the picture-postcard city of Bergen, you’re sure to be well looked after.
Navigating any new healthcare system can be tricky, and the Norwegian one may seem complex at first. You should always do plenty of research and planning before you arrive, but we’ve put together some essential information to help you understand some of the finer details and prepare for your move.
Norway offers all its citizens and registered residents universal health coverage through the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), or Folketrygden. The government’s Ministry of Health monitors the public system and defines the country’s healthcare policy, which promises healthcare to all, regardless of their age, income, or place of residence. This state-run public healthcare system is funded by automatic salary contributions, which are shared between employers and their employees, as well as taxes and a subsidised co-payment system.
The Ministry of Health oversees Norway’s four Regional Health Authorities (RHAs), which manage specialty care and run Norway’s public hospitals. Meanwhile, primary healthcare and social care services are delivered on a more local level by Norway’s various health regions and municipalities. This municipal structure means your experience of accessing and using healthcare services in Norway may differ depending on where you live.
Norwegian healthcare is of a very high standard, which is often considered to be one of the best in the world. It has highly trained medical professionals and offers a wide range of services, including primary and specialist care, emergency services, mental health services, hospital care and preventive health services. Norwegian hospitals and clinics are usually equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities and hold themselves to a very high standard of care.
The public National Insurance Scheme (NIS) covers all Norwegian citizens and registered residents, including expats, for a range of healthcare services. These include:
• primary healthcare, such as GP appointments
• emergency services and transport
• hospital care
• specialist consultations
• some prescription medications
• any costs related to pregnancy and childbirth
• treatment for children under the age of 16 (see below).
While some services – like emergency care – are entirely free, you’ll have to pay for other appointments and products. These are usually only partial co-payments and the amount you’ll pay within a calendar year is capped for most services.
It’s worth noting that the public system doesn’t cover everything. Routine dental care isn’t covered for adults over the age of 24, for example, although certain emergency cases and chronic issues are covered by the NIS and young adults (between the ages of 19 and 24) only have to pay for a proportion of their dental costs. The NIS also doesn’t cover cosmetic surgery or the cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses, except in very severe cases of vision impairment.
What about children?
If you have any children under the age of 16, they’ll also be included in your NIS cover and all their medical costs are fully covered. The NIS also includes psychological care and dental services for children up to the age of 18.
Are alternative and complementary therapies covered?
While Norway's healthcare system primarily focuses on evidence-based medicine, it does not fully cover alternative and complementary therapies. The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) does not typically provide coverage for treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic care, or herbal medicine. However, there may be some exceptions for certain therapies in specific cases, depending on the recommendation of a healthcare professional. It is advisable to consult with healthcare providers to understand the extent of coverage for alternative and complementary therapies.
The process for accessing Norway’s healthcare system won’t be the same for everyone. It’ll depend on where you live, your employment status and your nationality, so it’s always worth doing plenty of research before you move. Rules and regulations for membership with the National Insurance Scheme can be found here, but here are a few things to be aware of.
The first step in accessing Norwegian healthcare is to register as a resident on the Norwegian National Population Registry (Folkeregisteret). You’ll receive a Norwegian ID number, which is the same number you’ll use to access healthcare services.
If you’re employed in Norway, your employer should handle the paperwork to register you and set up your salary contributions for the NIS. You’ll have access to healthcare services when you receive your first salary payment and start paying taxes. Your contribution to Norwegian healthcare will be around 8% of your annual income, with your employer making an additional contribution on your behalf. All payments are automatically deducted from your salary each month.
If you’re a self-employed expat in Norway, you’ll have access to the same healthcare cover through the NIS, but you’ll have to handle the registration yourself. Firstly, you’ll need to become a resident via the Folkeregisteret and then register your business on the national registry. You can then sign up to the National Insurance Scheme and set up monthly salary contributions, which are just over 11% of your earnings.
If you’re a citizen of an EU or EEA country (or Switzerland) and planning on living in Norway for more than three months, you’ll need to register for the public healthcare system like all other residents and citizens.
If you’re visiting for a short time, or waiting for your residency status to be confirmed, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access medical treatment on the same basis as Norwegian citizens. It’s important to note that this is only for short-term, temporary stays and only covers certain services, so it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for joining the public scheme.
For anyone visiting Norway temporarily from a country outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, private healthcare cover is highly recommended as healthcare costs can be exceptionally high if you have to cover them yourself.
As mentioned previously, your salary contributions for to the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme (NIS) will be around 8% of your income. But, while most healthcare costs are covered by the NIS, you’ll also be charged a small fee for certain appointments, products, and medical treatments. So, while healthcare in Norway is universal, it’s not free, except for people under the age of 16 and pregnant women.
You’ll be charged a small ‘user fee’ for various medical appointments and services, such as GP appointments. These can range from 160 kroner (c.$15) for a daytime GP consultation, to 375 kroner (c.$35) for a consultation with a specialist.1 You’ll also have to pay user fees for treatments, investigations, and procedures at the hospital or in an outpatient clinic, as well as for physiotherapy or psychological treatment.
The total amount you pay in user fees is capped each calendar year. The maximum user fee for 2023 is 3040 kroner (around $285).1 Once you’ve reached that annual user fee limit, you’ll be issued with an exemption card, which means you don’t need to pay towards any other treatment for the rest of the year.
Doctors and GPs in Norway
You first need to find a GP (fastlege) that works within your area or municipality. GPs often have an agreement with the local authority regarding the number of patients they take on, so you’ll be able to register with them as long as they have room. You’ll also need to make sure they’re registered into the state scheme. More information about doctors’ services, as well as a directory of GP surgeries, can be found on the Norwegian government’s healthcare website – Helsenorge.
To make an appointment, all you need to do is call your local clinic and arrange a convenient time. You may also be able to make an appointment online if they have that facility available. Your doctor is the first port of call for any primary health issues. They’ll diagnose, treat or advise on any concerns and prescribe medicine or refer you to a specialist if needs be. The Norwegian healthcare system is built on free choice, so you’re not only free to choose your own doctor, but you can also change doctors up to twice a year if you’re not satisfied for any reason. This can also be done via the Helsenorge website.
Specialists in Norway
To see a specialist, you’ll need a referral from your GP. Norway is advanced when it comes to medical research and training, so there are specialists in most areas of medicine. You may find that, unless you have an urgent issue, it may be months before you can be seen by a specialist. These long waiting times can also mean that some GPs are reluctant to refer patients to specialists without exploring and exhausting other available treatment options.
Hospitals in Norway
There are numerous public hospitals located throughout Norway, overseen by the country’s four Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) – Central, Western, Northern and Southern & Eastern.
You can either be admitted to a hospital by referral from your GP or a specialist, or you can be admitted there via the emergency services.
Emergency care in Norway
In Norway, emergency healthcare is fully covered by the NIS. Every citizen and resident of Norway is eligible for emergency care regardless of their status. Ambulance services are also free and hospital emergency rooms are open 24/7, all year round.
The emergency telephone number in Norway is 113.
Medicine in Norway
Prescription medication falls into two main categories in Norway: white and blue classifications. You’ll need to pay in full for any medicines in the white class, while blue medications tend to be for chronic issues and have subsidised costs to ensure they’re manageable.
You’ll need a prescription from a Norwegian doctor to be able to get medication in the country. They’ll send your prescription to a central database, so you should be able to collect it from any pharmacy.
Pharmacies in Norway
A pharmacy in Norway is called an apotek and there are a lot of them located throughout the country. They generally operate during normal business hours, but you’ll also be able to find some 24-hour pharmacies in some larger cities.
You’ll also find most over-the-counter medications available to purchase in Norwegian pharmacies and, as in other countries, pharmacists in Norway may also be able to give you guidance or recommendations for minor issues.
Dental care in Norway
Dentistry is mostly private in Norway. For adults, this means you’ll need to pay for any routine dental services, although there are some exceptions for emergencies and chronic conditions or diseases. A private healthcare plan can help cover dental costs, so make sure this is included in your package before you go.
Norway’s Public Dental Health Services offer free treatment (excluding braces) for children up to the age of 18, while young adults between the ages of 19 and 24 will have some of their dental costs covered. Full details on how dentistry works in Norway, including what treatments and conditions may be covered by the NIS, can be found on the Norway health website here.
As all citizens and registered residents are covered by the public healthcare system, private health insurance is not mandatory in Norway. In fact, it’s thought that only around 10% of the population has private health insurance, and the majority of those have the benefit provided by employers.2
There are private hospitals and clinics throughout Norway, so private cover can provide access to more services and may reduce the amount of time you have to wait for certain procedures or appointments. You may also find that private healthcare providers have better facilities, though the quality of the care you receive is largely the same wherever you go.
And, depending on what plan you take out, private health insurance in Norway can also cover the co-payments you’ll make for certain appointments as well as any services that aren’t included in the public healthcare scheme, including dentistry.
If you’re a Norway resident, you’ll be covered under the public National Insurance Scheme for general, primary and emergency healthcare. But, if you choose to supplement this with a global healthcare plan, you may be able to reduce waiting times, gain access to more treatment options and cover things like dental care – in Norway, back home and anywhere else in the world. Check out our long-term cover options now and get the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ll always have somewhere to turn.
With the Virtual Doctor service, you can have a medical consultation with a real doctor wherever you are in the world – from the comfort of your home, hotel or office. Better still, there are doctors on call and available 24/7.3
Norway offers excellent career prospects and a great work-life balance to anyone choosing to move there. Whether you need a comprehensive plan that’ll give you access to one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, or you want to supplement the cover you get through the public scheme, we’re here to help.
Virtual Doctor lets you speak to a real doctor on the phone or by video from anywhere in the world in a number of different languages, including English, Spanish and Mandarin.3
We think compensation should be simple. Provided we have all the right information, over 80% of all eligible claims are paid within 48 hours.4
From overnight hospital stays to ambulance transport, all our plans offer emergency cover as standard. And, with optional extras like dental care and outpatient services, you can choose a package that suits you.
Whether you’re visiting Norway’s famous fjords or exploring the cosmopolitan capital of Oslo, the last thing you want is to worry about what might happen in an emergency. Our team can arrange for your evacuation and repatriation if the treatment you need isn’t available locally.
Moving to Norway is sure to provide opportunities for adventure and new experiences but, as with anywhere, it can take a while to settle in. Our Mind Health service connects you to qualified mental health experts for support if ever you need it.
Whether you feel unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan, want a better understanding of local healthcare practices, need details explained to you in a language of your choice, or if you’d simply like to make sure you’ve explored every available option, our Second Medical Opinion service can help bring you peace of mind.
With excellent career opportunities and the promise of a great work-life balance, Norway is an ideal choice for any adventurous professional looking for a new challenge. Our comprehensive expat health insurance is here to provide the added reassurance you need to help you settle in and make the most of your time there.
Norway is safe, picturesque and has a laidback way of life. And, with its excellent standard of healthcare, it’s become very popular among retirees. You can choose your plan to include cover for prescriptions, annual health checks, palliative care and disability compensation.
In Norway, family comes first. With free healthcare for under 16s, and for pregnant or nursing mothers, as well as a focus on the all-important work-life balance, it’s not difficult to see why it’s a very popular destination for families. With our long-term international health plans, we can help ensure the move is as smooth as possible.
*Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (GMT).
Calls may recorded and/or monitored for quality assurance, training and as a record of the conversation.
The Virtual Doctor, Mind Health and Second Medical Opinion services are provided by Teladoc Health.
Local insights have been provided by Oban International’s LIME (Local in-Market Expert) network. - https://obaninternational.com/lime-network/
All information correct at time of publication.
Exchange rates calculated in June 2023 using https://www.xe.com
1 Helse Norge – User fees at the family doctor
2 The Commonwealth Fund – International Health Care System Profiles, Norway
3 The Virtual Doctor service is provided by Teladoc Health. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation, but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Telephone appointments in Greek are available between 9am and 9pm EET, seven days a week. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 8am and midnight UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 8am and 8pm CET, Monday to Friday.
4 80.6% of eligible claims submitted online between July 2022 and June 2023 were paid within two days.