Getting health insurance in Sweden: A complete guide

TransferWise content team
14.11.17
5 minute read

Sweden is more than just beautiful northern countryside and medieval old charm for the occasional tourist. Its world-class healthcare puts it on the map as a popular destination for expats looking to make a permanent relocation.

This article explains the details of Sweden’s famous universal healthcare system, insurance options, and how to register to get the medical treatment that you need.

What kind of healthcare system does Sweden have?

Sweden has a universal public healthcare system. The central government dictates policy, but county councils and municipal governments provide services. Costs to run the system are paid for by taxes with contributions from the government. Patients will pay small out-of-pocket fees for prescriptions and some treatments. The county council sets the rates for copays, which leads to variation across the country, but providers can’t charge above the set rate in their area. The government caps out-of-pocket fees at 1,100 kr (Swedish krona)

Who needs to be covered by health insurance, by how much, and what’s actually covered?

If you move to Sweden and have a residency permit for over one year, you may need to show you have private insurance from your home country or another private provider until you're able to get yourself a Swedish ID number (the personnummer) personnummer grants you access to healthcare.

If you're from an EU/EEA country, you should register for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to Sweden. This card grants you access to healthcare for the same cost as a citizen.

Tourists or residents with a permit for less than one year from non-EU/EEA countries won't be able to obtain a personnummer, which means you don't have automatic access to free or reduced-cost healthcare in Sweden. You’ll need to have private insurance from your country or comprehensive travel insurance for the duration of your visit. Sweden also has reciprocal agreements for medical benefits with a number of countries. Check with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency for more information.

How long can I be uncovered by health insurance?

There’s no law against being uncovered by health insurance, but having insurance will help prevent you having to cover large medical bills out-of-pocket.

Are there any penalties for not being covered by medical insurance?

No, but medical bills can be costly. Health insurance will help ensure you don’t get caught by surprise with expensive medical bills.

Private or Public health insurance, which should I choose?

Private insurance

Private insurance isn't commonly used in Sweden. Only 10% of all employed adults get supplementary coverage to help them gain quicker access to emergency care, certain specialists, or to avoid waiting lists for elective treatments. Premiums and treatment are more expensive when using private insurance, but many citizens and expats prefer to pay in order to ensure that all of their medical needs are met and to avoid long waits for the public service.

Public insurance

There is no public insurance in Sweden. The national healthcare system is funded by taxes and the national government, which cover public health and preventative services. Coverage under this system is universal; all residents, including expats, have access to publicly financed healthcare services. This includes services such as inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drugs, primary healthcare, dental care (up to the age of 20), preventive services, disability support, and rehabilitation services.

If you're visiting Sweden temporarily, you can get medical treatment at any of the public facilities but you may need to show your own proof of insurance. If you're a temporary visitor from a country in the EU/EEA, you can access healthcare in Sweden using your EHIC.

What’s the average cost of health insurance?

Costs for private plans will vary with the provider and your personal situation, but expect to pay approximately 4,000 kr per year. Moreover, even if you qualify for the national health service, you'll still have to pay small fees for services. Here are expected costs associated with health insurance and care in Sweden:

Type of plan Average cost in Sweden
Average private healthcare plan 4,000 kr per year
Cost to see GP under universal system 200kr per visit
Cost to see a specialist under universal system 400 kr per visit
Cap on prescription costs under universal system 2,200 kr per year
Cap on healthcare costs under universal system 1,100 kr per year

If you relocate to Sweden and are thinking of buying local health insurance, you might want to transfer money over from your other bank accounts abroad. To avoid the often marked-up bank rates and crazy bank fees, you might want to consider signing up for a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account. It helps you receive and organise your money in tens of different currencies and it only charges a small transparent fee when you convert or transfer your money. TransferWise also always uses the mid-market rate - the one you’d find on Google. So no sneaky surprises after you’ve converted your money to krona.

Do I need to choose a family doctor / GP?

You can register with the doctor of your choice, but if you're using public healthcare you need to ensure that your doctor is contracted on this system because there are private options that charge higher fees. If you don’t have your Swedish personnummer yet, you may find it difficult to make an appointment. If you need urgent care and don't have this ID you can get treatment at a local acute care center (närakut).

Are pre-existing conditions covered?

Pre-existing conditions are treated in Sweden. If you're new to the country and permanently relocating you should bring your medical records with you.

How do I sign up for medical insurance?

If you'll be in Sweden for more than a year, you can register with the Swedish Tax Agency to receive your personnummer to access healthcare.

If you're a short-term resident or tourist, you’ll need to obtain private or international health insurance for your time in Sweden. These sites might be helpful:

The health card

To get the personnumber ID card in Sweden, you need to visit your local Swedish Tax Office (Skatterverket) the skatteverket website for more details. For a straightforward application, the waiting period could be 1-2 weeks. Special cases could take double the time.

Once you obtain your personal Swedish tax ID number, you can visit your local Swedish healthcare centre (vårdcentraler).

Which Insurance company should I choose??

If you're getting private insurance during your time in Sweden, here are some popular international health insurance providers and comparison sites to help you:

Because of its top-notch universal healthcare system, Sweden is a popular destination for those looking for a new adventure abroad. Make sure you follow this guide to help ensure you get the insurance and healthcare coverage you might need.

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