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HEALTH

Seven things foreigners in Norway should know about the health system

For those who are planning to or have recently moved to Norway, it would be valuable to know how the health system in your new country of residence works. Here a few key points to be aware of.

Seven things foreigners in Norway should know about the health system
Photo: Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

Editor’s note: Health provisions related to the Covid-19 pandemic are subject to change. Check with health authorities locally if you are in need of information and unsure about the current situation. Latest news on coronavirus in Norway can be found here.

Insurance is golden

A clean bill of health can suddenly be disrupted by the unplanned, and in most cases, the cost of receiving help is one of the first questions we need answers to.

According to the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV), if you are legally working or living in Norway, then you have automatically been enrolled in the Norwegian National Health Insurance Scheme. This means all necessary health expenses will be covered by national health insurance. Necessary expenses can include services for primary and mental health, as well as hospital care and select prescription drugs. 

READ ALSO: How to apply for permanent residency in Norway

Private insurance is available

Around 10 percent of the population in Norway has some type of private insurance, according to the Commonweath Fund. Of this 10 percent, 90 percent are policies provided by an employer.

One may ask themselves what is the point of private health insurance in a country with exceptional public health insurance, but there are a few attractive benefits. Private health insurers can offer quicker access to outpatient services and a broader choice of providers. If you need knee surgery for example, it would be covered by public health insurance, but doesn’t guarantee you can get the surgery right away. You may be placed on a long wait list with others who have similar needs.

Surgeries that are done for non-life-threatening issues, such as a knee surgery, can take a while to happen. With private insurance, it is more likely you will get the surgery done at a sooner date. 

You can choose your general practitioner 

While your acceptance into the National Health Insurance Scheme may be automatic, it is up to you to choose your GP. You can choose one at complete random or in accordance to a referral or where you live.

There are a few guidelines to be aware of if you for some reason want to change from your original choice. You are allowed to change your GP up to two times in one year.  You can also choose to change if you officially change your address, or if your GP cuts their patient list. You can find a list of general practitioners at legelisten.no.

What health related issues are not generally covered?

Since the public healthcare system covers such a vast array of services, it might come as a surprise to know that eyecare and dental health are not included in the system. This is a general rule and there are a few exceptions. Children’s dental health is covered by public health care until they are 18 years of age. There is also something called an exemption card, which can be used once you have paid more than a certain amount in user fees.

In addition, there is a list of 15 different dental health conditions that can be covered by the National Insurance Scheme.  A visit to the optometrist can set you back as well, but standard procedures like a sight test are not overwhelmingly expensive.

READ ALSO: Here's what The Local readers think about Norway's hospitals

Paying user fees

Visiting your general practitioner is covered by the public health care insurance, but you are subject to paying a user fee for the visit. As of 2020, the maximum amount you can pay for user fees is 2,460 kroner.

The standard charge for a daytime consultation with your GP would be 160 kroner (15 euros). A visit with a specialist is 375 kroner (35 euros) and a laboratory test, like getting your bloodwork done, costs 59 kroner (6 euros). 

If you are planning on giving birth in Norway

Being pregnant and giving birth in Norway is a process that is followed closely by the mother’s general practitioner (or midwife) and all other parties involved in ensuring both the baby and the parents well-being.

In Norway, it is the mother's right to choose where she would like to give birth. These can include midwifery-led units, hospital maternity wards and specialist clinics. 

The GP or midwife will send the desired birthing centre an application on the mother's behalf. If the mother is denied her first choice, it may be because the birthing centre did not have enough space at around the time of the due date. Alternative options will be offered to choose from.

STD testing is free for those under 25

Like any other country, sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent. In Norway, residents of 25 years of age or younger are offered a free STD test at a clinic as often as they need.

If you are older than 25 but your partner is younger than 25 and has tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease then you are also entitled to a free check. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, clinics have eliminated their drop-in availability at the time of writing and you must schedule an appointment. 

Useful Norwegian Vocabulary 

Helse – health

Lege– doctor

Legevakt– Emergency room 

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HEALTH

HEALTH: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Norway 

Going to the doctor is a necessary part of living overseas, but there are a few things you should be aware of before going for a check-up in Norway. 

HEALTH: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Norway 

Norway is known for having excellent healthcare, and the medical systems in Scandinavian countries are often held up as examples of what other countries should try and emulate. 

Despite that, it’s not all plain sailing when visiting a doctor in Norway, and there are often some misconceptions people have and some idiosyncrasies with the system that can be a bit jarring for some. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together a run-down of what you should expect when visiting a doctor in Norway. 

You will need to sign up first  

You aren’t assigned a GP or fastlege automatically, so you will need to sign up for a doctor yourself. 

To be eligible for a doctor, you must be living and working in Norway legally. You will be enrolled in the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme if you meet this requirement. Everyone part of this scheme is entitled to healthcare services and a GP by extension

To find a GP, you will need to head to Norway’s digital health portal, helsenorge, and log in. You will need an electronic ID such as Commfides, BankID or Buypass ID to sign in. 

Once signed up, you can select the county you are in and see a list of doctors in your local area. The list will have the doctor’s name, age and gender, and if a substitute is covering them. 

READ MORE: How to register with a doctor in Norway

Visiting a doctor will cost you money

One of the biggest misconceptions about healthcare in Norway is that it’s free. It isn’t. Instead, residents will need to pay for healthcare at the point of service. However these costs are heavily subsidised through the National Insurance Scheme, and there is a relatively low limit on how much individuals have to pay each year. 

A GP appointment will cost 160 kroner during the day and 280 in the evening, a lab test costs 59 kroner, and a consultation with a specialist costs 375 kroner. You can get a full run-down of the fees you can expect to pay during a doctor’s visit here.

Language shouldn’t be an issue 

Norway ranks number 5 out of 112 countries for their English proficiency (English Proficiency Index). This means that you shouldn’t put off seeing a doctor because you’re worried about the language gap. 

Even if you are in more rural parts of the country, you can expect to be able to see a doctor that you can communicate with in English if that would make you feel more comfortable. 

READ ALSO: Does everyone in Norway speak perfect English?

Changing your doctor 

If, for whatever reason, you want to change your doctor, say you don’t gel with them, find it hard to get an appointment or have heard great things about another GP, then you can change your fastlege

The Norwegian GP system allows for decent flexibility, and you can change your doctor up to two times in one calendar year, for whatever reason you wish. 

To make the switch, you’ll need to sign into helsenorge and change your doctor there. 

READ ALSO: How to switch GPs in Norway 

Your medical history isn’t automatically available to doctors

When you change GPs in Norway, you’ll need to ensure your new doctor has access to your medical records. It is your responsibility to do this, and much like signing up for a new GP, this isn’t done automatically. 

Having your medical records sent to your new doctor simply involves contacting your former GP surgery and asking them to forward your record to your current practice. Your medical records also contain information from when something has been followed up, for example, notes from a scan or specialist.  

If you move from another country, then this may mean either filling in the doctor of your medical history or trying to get your medical history forwarded. 

What do The Local’s readers think of the medical system

The Local’s readers have previously shared their thoughts on the country’s healthcare system. Among the positives were competent GPs, excellent quality of treatment, and good quality service. 

Waiting times were the biggest issue cited by readers. Respondents to the survey said they either waited a long time for an appointment or to get a GP. 

READ ALSO: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

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