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HEALTH

Could Norway reintroduce tax on sugar-based products?

Health organisations in Norway have called for the government to propose the return of the country’s sugar tax when it makes an upcoming statement on public health.

sweets
Health organisations in Norway want the country to return to more broadly-reaching sugar taxes. Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

The National Society of Public Health (Nasjonalforeningen for folkehelsen) said it wants sugar to be taxed in Norway in a response provided during the hearing round of the government’s work on a new public health statement, newspaper Aftenposten reports.

The public health society is one of several societies and other health organisations in Norway who want the return of the sugar tax, the newspaper writes.

The Ministry of Health and Care Services (Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet) is working on a statement on public health to be released next spring and has therefore asked for organisations and agencies to submit inputs over the issue.

The hearing stage of the process showed that several of organisations support the use of taxes to influence the consumer prices of healthy and unhealthy food, Aftenposten writes.

In the past, Norway has taxed sugar more heavily than it does today. But the previous government scrapped taxes on alcohol-free soft drinks and products that use sugar as raw ingredients, such as chocolate or cakes.

Tax is still applied to purchases of raw sugars including sugar cubes, caster sugar and similar products, with consumers paying the sugar tax at the point of purchase.

Because all of the sugar taxes were implemented as a way for the state to raise funds, rather than for health reasons, they did not necessarily impact similar foods in the same way and were therefore criticised as being ineffective from a health perspective, according to Aftenposten.

Two of the three taxes were for this reason eventually lifted following parliamentary discussions, but were never replaced.

“The removal of the sugar tax has taken away one of the most important levers we had to be able to affect consumer choice. Over 100 sector experts and organisations were behind the opposition to (former prime minister Erna) Solberg’s removal of the tax. It should be reimplemented but should have a clearer health objective,” the National Society of Public Health said in its hearing response.

A string of health organisations, including the National Society of Heart and Lung Disease (Landsforeningen for hjerte- og lungesyke), and cancer and diabetes charities along with dentists and doctors’ professional organisations are all also reported by Aftensposten to support the return of the tax.

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise’s (NHO) food and drink section, NHO Mat og drikke, and breweries interest organisation Bryggeri og drikkevareforeningen said they opposed it.

“The (sugar) tax policy must be transparent and cannot be looked at without also considering border shopping [crossing the border to Sweden to purchase products without the tax, ed.],” the brewery organisation said.

READ ALSO: ‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing?

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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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