Learn about the healthcare system in Sweden
People in Sweden are living increasingly longer. The average lifespan in Sweden is now 83.5 years for women and 79.5 years for men. This can be partially attributed to falling mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes. Sweden has one on Europe’s largest elderly populations as a proportion of the national total; in 2010, 18 per cent of the country’s population was age 65 or older.
Everyone who lives or works in Sweden has equal access to health care services under a largely decentralized taxpayer-funded system. The responsibility for health and medical care in Sweden is divided between the central government, county councils, and municipalities. The Health and Medical Service Act regulates the responsibilities of the county councils and municipalities, while the central government is afforded a bit more freedom in this area.
The role of the central government in the Swedish heath care system is to establish principles and guidelines, and to set the political agenda for health and medical care, which it does through laws and ordinances or by reaching agreements with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), which represents the county councils and municipalities.
Responsibility for providing health care in Sweden belongs to the county councils and, in some cases, municipal governments. County councils are political bodies in which the representatives are elected by county residents every four years. These elections are held on the same day as national general elections. According to Swedish policy, every county council must provide its residents with good quality health and medical care, and attempt to promote good health for the entire population. Dental care for local residents up to the age of 20 is also the responsibility of the county council.
Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities, 20 county councils, and four regions—Gotland, Halland, Skåne and Western Götaland. There is no hierarchical relation between municipalities, county councils, and regions. The municipalities in Sweden are responsible for care for the elderly, both in the home and in special accommodation. Responsibilities of municipalities also extend to care for people with physical disabilities and psychological disorders, and providing support and services for people who have recently been released from the hospital as well as for school health care.
Waiting times for preplanned care such as surgery have long been criticized. For this reason, Sweden introduced a health care guarantee in 2005 that orders that no patient will have to wait more than seven days for an appointment at a community health care center, 90 days for an appointment with a specialist, and 90 days for an operation or treatment once it has been determined what care is needed. If this specified waiting time is exceeded, the patient is offered care elsewhere, and his or her medical costs and any necessary travel costs are then paid by his or her county council.
Hospital stays in Sweden usually amount to about SEK 80 per day, and fees for primary care are between SEK 100 and 200. For specialist care, you will need to pay an additional fee of approximately SEK 300. There is a limit on individual costs of SEK 900 per year. If you pay this much during one year, medical consultations for the next 12 months are free. This may vary depending on your health insurance provider.
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