When traveling abroad for study, international students absolutely must become familiar with the healthcare system of their host country. If Iceland is the country in which you have decided to study abroad, it is important to remember the country has a public healthcare system and state-run infrastructure—meaning those with insurance both pay less and receive broader access to healthcare facilities than those residents who are uninsured. Given the robust nature of the public healthcare system in Iceland, private healthcare facilities are practically non-existent in the country.
Iceland is divided into seven different healthcare regions, each with their own health care centres and general practitioners. General practitioners are the individuals with whom international students in Iceland will deal the most, as a referral from one is required for nearly any aspect of medical treatment. The healthcare system in Iceland is designed so that individuals seek the assistance of general practitioners (GP's) for any concerns, and the GP decides from there whether hospitalization or a referral to a specialist is required. Any costs associated with visits to a general practitioner typically run less than 500 ISK (Icelandic Krona) ($75 or 55Euro).
International students who decide to study abroad in Iceland will need to have some kind of health insurance for at least the first six months of residence. International students from EU or EEA countries will need to provide proof of having valid insurance in their home country, and students from the US and other non-EEA countries must have insurance through a provider that will specifically cover them during their initial stay in Iceland. Those international students and other residents without health insurance will only be eligible for emergency treatment while in Iceland, and all services to the uninsured are billed at a much higher cost.
Regarding hospitals, only in emergency situations is immediate admittance available. Otherwise, a referral from a general practitioner is required, and will often require a waiting period. Any inpatient treatments received are typically free of charge, while outpatient care usually has a cost associated with it. Dental care, however, is not covered under the standard national insurance plan in Iceland. Children under 18 are billed at a reduced rate under their parent/guardians' insurance plans, and people under 21 are billed for dental care at a reduced rate, with partial reimbursement available. EU and EEA residents may seek partial or full reimbursement from their home country for expenses related to dental care while in Iceland. Everyone else, unless specifically covered by a private provider, will pay full cost out of pocket to receive non-emergency dental treatment through the health care system in Iceland.
After residing in the country for a period of at least six months, anyone in Iceland is entitled to opt into the regular Icelandic public plan, regardless of nationality. This public plan gives individuals access to either reduced cost or no cost healthcare throughout any of Iceland's seven healthcare regions. Public health care in Iceland is robust, and among the highest regarded healthcare systems in the world. The largest problem or concern with healthcare in Iceland is the long wait times associated with non-emergency procedures. However, the merits of the Icelandic healthcare system include: universal access, free or reduced prescription coverage, per diem cash sickness benefits, free or reduced x-ray/radiation, in-home nursing, and more.