With a culture that prioritises healthy living and a good work/life balance, Sweden has become an increasingly popular destination for expats. The country invests heavily in its public services to make life for everyone as long, enjoyable and fair as possible. The streets are safe and clean, the population is happy and healthy, and the healthcare system is one of the best in the world.
Sweden has a universal healthcare system and with a growing expat community, the good news is that all permanent residents are eligible. It’s easily accessible and designed to look after everyone equally.
So, whether you’re retiring to Sweden or starting a new job in the relaxed capital city of Stockholm, you’ll be in safe hands. We’ve put together a simple guide to help you understand the system a little better and help you prepare for your move.
The Swedish healthcare system is considered to be one of the best in the world1 and is regularly found towards the top of international healthcare league tables. In fact, other Scandinavian countries have adopted the Swedish blueprint when developing their own healthcare systems and it’s not difficult to see why.
The Swedish government dedicates over 10% of the country’s GDP to healthcare2. This means Sweden has excellent medical facilities, world-leading research and a very high standard of care. Incidentally, all higher education in Sweden is free for EU citizens, including medical schools, so there’s also a high doctor-to-patient ratio.
One of the only problems with Swedish healthcare in recent years has been the long waiting times some people have experienced, particularly for appointments with specialists. Measures have been put in place to tackle this, but in some cases, you may find that you have to wait for up to 90 days for certain appointments.
Sweden has universal healthcare. This means the country offers equal healthcare services to every resident, regardless of their age, wealth, employment status or nationality. The central government dictates budgets, policies and guidelines, but the healthcare services are financed and provided on a regional level.
Sweden is divided into 21 regional councils and almost 300 municipalities and it’s the responsibility of each local authority to provide its residents with high-quality health and medical care. Councils have a fair amount of freedom to decide how best to allocate resources and deliver services, but wherever you are, you’ll find the Swedish healthcare system covers most medical conditions, hospital stays, prescriptions, primary care, rehabilitation and disability services.
Most of the funding for the Swedish healthcare system comes from taxes, so if you’re working in Sweden, a proportion of your income will be taxed to cover healthcare. These taxes are administered on a regional level, and each local authority has a slightly different approach, so the amount will vary depending on where you are.
It’s important to note that, while the Swedish government covers a large proportion of the costs, healthcare isn’t free for people over the age of 20. A small amount of healthcare funding comes from payments made by patients when they have an appointment. Fees are very reasonable and they’re capped, but the exact amount will vary depending on your location as local authorities set their own figures.
All Swedish residents are eligible for universal healthcare, though the process of acquiring it will vary depending on your location. If you’re not a resident, your access to healthcare will depend on your nationality and circumstances.
Sweden offers universal healthcare to all its residents, which includes expats. Once you’ve obtained your residence permit, you’ll need a personal identification number (personnummer) to register for the universal healthcare system. You should be able to get this number from your local tax office.
Once you’ve registered, you’ll be assigned a local healthcare centre, which is your first port of call for any non-emergency appointments. You can visit any public health centre (vårdcentraler) within your county to be assigned your local facility. You may be able to switch your local centre or visit a facility outside of your region, but it’s important to note that different councils have different registration and referral processes, so it’s worth researching this before you travel.
If you’re an EU, EEA, Swiss or Nordic citizen and you’re visiting Sweden temporarily or waiting for your residency status to be finalised, you’re entitled to healthcare on the same conditions as Swedish citizens. You just need to have your ID and your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and you can receive treatment at any public facility and pay the local, capped co-payment rates for treatment. Your EHIC card can be issued by your national health insurance provider.
It is important to note though that the EHIC is not an alternative to health insurance, you will only have access to emergency or necessary medical care – it does not cover emergencies such as medical repatriation.
For posted workers (residing less than 2 years), cross-border workers, pensioners seeking residence and civil servants (and their dependents), you can request an S1 form (issued by your government or national health authority) and register it with the Swedish government. This will grant you access to the Swedish healthcare system.
Anyone visiting Sweden temporarily can get medical treatment at a public facility. But if you’re not an EU, EEA, Swiss or Nordic citizen, you won’t be eligible for the same healthcare rates as residents. You’ll need to cover the full cost of any healthcare services you use through comprehensive travel insurance or a policy from your home country that’s valid for the duration of your stay.
You’ll need to show proof of your insurance and the policy needs to be valid for the duration of your visit. If you’re planning on applying for residency, you’ll need the insurance to cover you until you’ve got your visa, found a job and registered with the Swedish Tax Agency. Once registered, you’ll be eligible for healthcare on the same terms as Swedish residents (see above).
Following Brexit, UK citizens can use an existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), while it’s still in-date. If you don’t have a valid EHIC, a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will allow you to access the public healthcare system on the same basis as Swedish citizens, but only for essential healthcare services. For all other planned or routine services, you’ll need to pay for healthcare with an insurance plan or access the universal system by becoming a resident (see above).
To book a medical appointment, you can contact a health centre (vårdcentral) or a private clinic that has an agreement with the region, which can often be found in larger cities. You should be able to see a general practitioner within seven days at the vårdcentral and possibly quicker than that in a private clinic. If you’re a resident, you should call the health centre that you’ve been assigned to, otherwise you can call 1177 or visit the country’s main healthcare website, 1177.se for help with finding local health centres.
If you’re a resident, you should always bring your identity card (containing your personnummer) with you when you go to an appointment, seek medical care or pick up a prescription. This makes the process of accessing the healthcare system easier and will ensure your care is fully subsidised.
In most regions, residents under the age of 20 will receive free medical care. But after that, healthcare isn’t completely free. Fees vary depending on the service and the region, but they’re generally very reasonable.
Primary care services, like an appointment with a doctor, usually cost between 110 and 220 kronor (SEK), which is around 10 to 20 Euros. Doctor visits are capped at 300 SEK per appointment in all regions. Meanwhile, specialist appointments cost around 400 SEK (c.36 Euros), and hospital admissions cannot exceed 110 SEK (10 euros) per day.
There’s also a ‘high-cost protection’ (högkostnadsskydd) regulation in place, which caps the annual amount any individual can spend on healthcare costs. This cap is set at 1,200 SEK (around 110 Euros), so if you have frequent or ongoing care and you reach that amount, you won’t have to pay any more for the remainder of the year.
Finally, some services in Sweden are completely free, including cancer screenings and maternity care.
The phone number for the emergency services in Sweden is 112. This is the standard European emergency number.
Sweden’s public dental care (or Folktandvården) is managed on a regional level and offers free dental care to residents until they turn 23. After that, dental care isn’t fully covered by the health system, so it needs to be paid for. At this point, many residents choose to move to the private sector as the quality and cost of care is similar to the public offering, but it provides more flexibility and often involves shorter waiting times.
Residents receive an annual allowance towards routine dental treatment and, if you incur significant expenses, the healthcare system reimburses a proportion of the costs.
In Sweden, the pharmacy is called the apoteket. You should see this word on a big green sign above the door. Most operate similar opening hours to other shops, but there are some 24-hour pharmacies throughout the regions.
For most medications, you’ll need a prescription from a doctor or specialist. You can then take your prescription to any pharmacy as there’s a centralised system that stores and updates all patient information. Medications tend not to be free, so you’ll usually have to pay but, as with medical care, there’s a high-cost protection cap in place. Prescription fees for most medications are capped at 2,400 SEK per year, so if you reach this sum, the government will cover any additional expenses.
If you’re struggling with a language barrier, you can ask for the assistance of an interpreter. This is a free service, but ideally it should be requested when booking your appointment.
If you’re a resident, you’re covered by the public system and you don’t have to take out any additional healthcare cover. If you do, the main benefit you may find is that you could be able to book an appointment or procedure sooner than through the public system. Your co-payment costs will also be covered but, because these are capped, you may find that the annual cost of an insurance policy is more than you’d need to pay out-of-pocket. Aside from that, the quality of the public healthcare is so good that you’re unlikely to see much of a difference if you go private.
If you’re not a Swedish resident (or you’re waiting for your residency status to be confirmed), you might need to consider private healthcare cover. As mentioned earlier, it depends where you’re from.
For EU, EEA, Swiss or Nordic citizens, you’ll have access to the public healthcare system in Sweden as long as you can show ID and / or a European or Global Health Insurance Card (EHIC or GHIC). For any non-resident from outside of those areas, you’ll need to pay for any medical expenses in full. That means you’re required to have comprehensive medical insurance that covers you for the duration of your time in Sweden.
There’s a lot to consider when moving to Sweden, however, with our annual healthcare plan, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. We’ll help you settle into your new life with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve always got somewhere to turn for help.
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 24/7.1
Sweden is an unforgettable place to visit. Make sure you enjoy every minute of it, with comprehensive healthcare cover that’ll give you access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world1.
With our Virtual Doctor service, you can speak to an experienced doctor from anywhere in the world3 in a number of different languages, which could come in handy if your Swedish is a little rusty.
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 medical scans to ambulance transport, our comprehensive plans offer emergency cover as standard. And, with optional extras like dental care and out-patient services, you can choose a package that suits you.
Whether you’re exploring Sweden’s historic cities or its rugged wilderness, you don’t want to worry about what to do in an emergency. Our evacuation and repatriation service is always here if things don’t go to plan.
The Swedish way of life may take some getting used to and you might feel a long way from home. Our Mind Health service connects you to qualified mental health experts for support whenever you need it.5
Sometimes things get lost in translation. Even though many Swedish people speak a second language, there may be times when you’re just not sure. Get a second medical opinion from an international network of experts.6
Whether you’re starting a new role in the heart of Stockholm, relocating for a work assignment or teaching at an international school, we offer comprehensive expat health insurance, as well as optional benefits that you can tailor to your needs.
Sweden is a popular destination to relocate to for families from all over the world. With so many safe, picturesque and exciting places to settle down, the last thing you want is to let a health worry interfere with your experience. Discover our long and short-term international health plans, which will cover you and your family’s general health as well as emergencies.
Sweden’s excellent standard of healthcare, along with the fact that general fitness and wellbeing is a high priority among all its citizens, means it has one of the oldest populations in the western world and an average life expectancy of around 82 years. This makes it a very popular destination for people move to for their retirement. Our international health insurance plans include cover for prescriptions, annual health checks, palliative care and disability compensation.
*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 approved by Oban International’s LIME (Local In-Market Expert) network’ - https://obaninternational.com/lime-network/
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 9amand 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 80.5% of eligible claims submitted online between January 2022 and December 2022 were paid within 2 days.
5 This service provides you with access to six sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Mind Health psychologist appointments are available in English and Spanish between Monday and Friday, 09.00 - 17.30 (UK time).
6 Service provided by Teladoc Health