Health Insurance in Sweden: A Guide for Foreigners in 2024



No Comments

Sweden, a nation celebrated for its lush landscapes, rich history, and, more importantly, its commitment to the well-being of its inhabitants, offers one of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in the world. If you’re a foreigner in this pristine Scandinavian land, it’s paramount to understand how health insurance functions here.

This knowledge will not only ensure you can access the best medical care but also imbue a sense of confidence as you navigate your Swedish journey. Let’s delve into the intricacies of health insurance in Sweden and see how it serves those from foreign shores.


  • Obtaining a Personal Identification Number (Personnummer) is essential for accessing healthcare in Sweden.
  • Sweden’s public healthcare system offers comprehensive care at nominal fees.
  • Private healthcare offers faster access to specialists and elective procedures but at a higher cost.
  • The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides EU/EEA citizens with access to public healthcare at Swedish resident rates.
  • International health insurance plans are essential for non-EU/EEA citizens and can provide broader coverage options.
  • Students and expats have special considerations such as university health services and potential language barriers.
  • Emergency services in Sweden are accessible via the 112 hotline and provide immediate, high-quality care.

Public Healthcare in Sweden

When you think of Swedish healthcare, what often comes to mind is its robust public healthcare system. Funded mainly through taxes, the Swedish healthcare system aims to provide affordable and high-quality medical services to all residents, including foreigners.

Structure and Coverage

Sweden’s healthcare system is decentralized, with its 21 counties responsible for organizing healthcare services. Each county has its own set of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers. Though the specifics can vary slightly from one county to another, you can generally expect to find a wide array of services, ranging from general practitioners to specialized medical services like surgery and psychiatric care.

How Foreigners Can Access Public Healthcare

For you, as a foreigner in Sweden, accessing public healthcare begins with registration. Once you’ve obtained a Personal Identification Number (Personnummer), you’re eligible to register at your local healthcare center, also known as a “Vårdcentral.” Making appointments is usually straightforward, and you can often choose the doctor you’d like to consult with. Some healthcare centers even offer online appointment systems, simplifying the process for those who may not speak Swedish fluently.

Costs Involved

Though healthcare in Sweden is publicly funded, it is not entirely free. There are some fees you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket for services like doctor visits, tests, and hospital stays. These charges, however, are quite nominal compared to those in many other countries.

A typical doctor’s visit might cost you around 200 to 350 Swedish Kronor (roughly 20 to 35 Euros), while a hospital stay can range from 100 to 300 Kronor per day. Despite these costs, Sweden’s healthcare system aims to put a cap on annual medical expenses to ensure healthcare remains affordable for everyone.

Private Healthcare in Sweden

Sweden is not only home to a commendable public healthcare system but also offers a range of private healthcare options. Opting for private healthcare can provide additional conveniences, though it’s essential to understand what sets it apart from public services.

Availability and Services

Private healthcare facilities in Sweden can range from specialized clinics to full-scale hospitals. These private options often offer a broader range of elective treatments and the possibility to choose specialized consultants. They’re especially known for shorter waiting times, an aspect that some find worth the extra cost.

Differences Between Public and Private Healthcare

It’s worth noting that private healthcare in Sweden operates alongside the public system and is by no means a replacement for it. While public healthcare aims to provide essential medical services to all, private healthcare often focuses on additional comforts like faster service and specialized treatments. It’s common for private facilities to offer services that may not be readily available in the public sector or to provide quicker access to elective procedures.

Costs and Coverage

The convenience of private healthcare does come at a price. Out-of-pocket costs for private services can be significantly higher than those in the public healthcare system. Private healthcare usually isn’t covered by the basic health insurance that applies to public services, meaning you’ll need either a private health insurance plan or the willingness to pay these higher costs directly.

Because private healthcare costs can add up quickly, many people opt for supplementary private health insurance. These plans can cover everything from specialist consultations to elective surgeries. However, they require a separate monthly or annual premium and may have exclusions or limitations.

If you’re considering private healthcare, it’s advisable to meticulously review your insurance options and the terms involved. This scrutiny ensures that you understand exactly what is covered and what you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket.

Registering for a Personal Identification Number (Personnummer)

Your journey through the Swedish healthcare system starts with a crucial step: obtaining a Personal Identification Number, locally known as a “Personnummer.” This 10- or 12-digit number is more than just a formality—it’s your key to accessing a variety of essential services, including healthcare.

The Process and Importance of Obtaining a Personnummer

Registering for a Personnummer should be one of your first administrative tasks upon arriving in Sweden, especially if you plan to stay for an extended period. The number is required for a wide range of activities, from opening a bank account to enrolling your children in school. In healthcare, it allows you to register with local medical services and is often needed for booking appointments or filling prescriptions.

You’ll apply for your Personnummer at the Swedish Tax Agency, known as “Skatteverket.” The application is usually straightforward, but the process can take a few weeks to complete. So, it’s wise to initiate this as soon as you can.

Documents Needed

When applying for a Personnummer, you’ll need to present several documents. The exact requirements can vary depending on your circumstances, such as whether you’re an EU/EEA citizen, a student, or a worker. However, you can generally expect to provide the following:

Document TypeDescription
Valid Passport or ID CardFor identity verification
Proof of ResidenceLease agreement, utility bill, etc. to prove Swedish residency
Purpose of StayEmployment contract, university enrollment letter, etc.
Health Insurance (non-EU)Comprehensive health insurance is often required for non-EU/EEA citizens applying for a Swedish visa

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you hail from an EU/EEA country, your path to accessing healthcare in Sweden comes with an added layer of ease: the European Health Insurance Card, commonly referred to as EHIC. This little piece of plastic can make a big difference in your healthcare experience in Sweden, offering you a range of benefits that make your medical journey smoother and more financially manageable.

Eligibility and Benefits for EU/EEA Citizens

The EHIC is available to citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland. Holding this card means you are entitled to medically necessary healthcare under the same conditions and at the same cost as residents of Sweden. In essence, you’ll be treated as if you were a part of Sweden’s public healthcare system. This is especially beneficial for those who may not have had time to delve into the intricacies of Swedish healthcare or are in the country for a relatively short period.

How to Use It in Sweden

Using your EHIC in Sweden is a straightforward process. Whenever you visit a healthcare provider, whether it’s a general practitioner or a specialist, simply present your EHIC along with a valid form of photo identification, such as a passport. This will ensure you receive treatment at the same cost as a Swedish citizen, which is often a nominal fee.

If you’re already in Sweden and realize you’ve forgotten your EHIC, fret not. You can usually request a Provisional Replacement Certificate to be sent to you, ensuring you still enjoy the EHIC benefits while in Sweden.

International Health Insurance in Sweden

While Sweden’s public healthcare system and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) offer excellent avenues for medical care, there are instances where you might consider opting for international health insurance. Whether you come from outside the EU/EEA or simply desire a more expansive safety net, international plans can offer added peace of mind.

For Non-EU/EEA Citizens or Those Who Want Additional Coverage

If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen, having comprehensive health insurance is often a prerequisite for obtaining a visa to Sweden. Moreover, an international health insurance plan can offer broader coverage, including medical evacuation, repatriation, and sometimes even dental care and vision services, depending on the plan you choose.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Plan

Picking an international health insurance plan is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It involves careful consideration of various factors to ensure it suits your needs and budget. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Scope of Coverage: Understand what the insurance covers. Does it include only emergency situations, or does it offer comprehensive services, including regular check-ups, preventive care, and specialist visits?

Geographical Coverage: Some plans offer global coverage, while others may restrict benefits to a particular region. Make sure your plan is valid in Sweden and any other countries you may travel to.

Limitations and Exclusions: Every insurance plan comes with its fine print. Be aware of any limitations, waiting periods, and exclusions that may apply.

Cost: Premiums can vary widely based on the range of services covered. Additionally, consider other costs like co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums.

Special Considerations for Students and Expats

Sweden’s appeal extends far beyond its natural beauty and quality of life; it’s also a hub for international education and career opportunities. If you’re a student or an expatriate in this Nordic nation, there are some special considerations you might need to take into account to make your healthcare experience as seamless as possible.

Healthcare for Students

For international students in Sweden, the good news is that your status affords you some unique benefits. If you’re an EU/EEA citizen, your EHIC card should suffice for general healthcare needs. However, students from outside these regions should look into a comprehensive health insurance plan that meets the Swedish visa requirements.

Most universities also offer student health services, which provide an array of medical and psychological support options. These services often come at a minimal cost or are sometimes even free, making them a valuable resource for students.

Healthcare for Expatriates

Expatriates residing and working in Sweden usually become part of the country’s social security system, which means they also gain access to public healthcare. However, expats might find that private healthcare insurance can be beneficial for quicker access to specialist services, or if you’re looking for medical coverage that extends back to your home country or other nations, you may travel to for work.

Additional Considerations for Both Groups

Language Barriers: While many healthcare providers in Sweden speak excellent English, not all administrative staff may be fluent. Some healthcare centers in larger cities may offer services specifically geared towards English speakers.

Prescriptions: If you require prescription medicine, it’s advisable to consult a local healthcare provider as soon as you arrive. Sweden has its own regulations and lists of approved medications, and your specific medication may not be readily available.

Emergency Services

In any new environment, it’s essential to know how to access emergency services swiftly and efficiently. When it comes to healthcare in Sweden, you’ll find a system well-equipped to handle emergencies, ensuring that you receive timely and effective care when you need it the most.

Dialing for Help

In the event of an emergency, dialing 112 will connect you to Sweden’s emergency services, which include ambulance, fire, and police. The call center staff generally speak English, so language should not be a barrier in urgent situations.

Types of Emergency Facilities

Sweden has a network of emergency wards and hospitals capable of providing immediate and specialized care. These are known as “Akutmottagning” and are usually part of larger hospitals. You can go directly to these facilities in emergency situations, but it’s important to note that, like non-emergency services, some costs are involved. These costs are relatively minimal and should not deter you from seeking emergency care.

Non-Urgent Medical Concerns

If you face a non-urgent medical concern that still requires prompt attention, you can call the healthcare advice line at 1177. This line is staffed by trained nurses who can provide medical advice and guide you on the appropriate steps to take, including directing you to the nearest healthcare center if necessary.

Healthcare During the Golden Hour

In emergency medical parlance, the “golden hour” refers to the critical period immediately following a traumatic injury during which prompt medical treatment significantly increases the chances of saving a life or minimizing long-term damage. In Sweden, the commitment to providing rapid, high-quality care within this window is robust. Ambulances are well-equipped, and staff are trained to administer advanced medical care even before you reach the hospital.

Additional Resources

  • 1177 Vårdguiden: This is a comprehensive website offering healthcare advice and information, available in multiple languages. It also provides a search function for healthcare providers and can guide you through the Swedish healthcare system.
  • Försäkringskassan: This is the Swedish Social Insurance Agency’s website, where you can find detailed information on your social insurance rights, including health benefits.
  • Migrationsverket: The Swedish Migration Agency’s website provides a wealth of information regarding visa requirements, including the kind of health insurance you might need based on your circumstances.
  • KRY: This is a telehealth service that offers medical consultations via video calls. The service is convenient and could be useful for minor concerns or for times when you are unable to physically visit a doctor.


Sofia is our Relocation Expert, who brings first-hand experience in moving to Sweden from abroad. She moved to Sweden over a decade ago and navigated the complexities of relocation herself.

Leave a Comment