The Swedish health care system is closely linked to social insurance, which means that everyone who lives or works in Sweden has access to heavily subsidized health care.
Swedish health care is mostly tax-financed to be accessible to everyone. Photo: Susanne Walström/Johnér/Image Bank Sweden
If people like Anna or Lars Johansson falls ill (see "Meet the Johanssons" in the right column), it is of course a nuisance but not a financial disaster for the family. Sick-leave pay from your employer normally amounts to 80 percent of your salary, apart from the first day, when you don’t get paid at all. If they are ill for more than fourteen days, they will get a slightly lower sickness benefit from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. For longer-term illnesses, the entitlement to sickness benefit will be assessed at regular intervals.
When Anna and Lars go to see a doctor, they only pay a fee of between SEK 100 and 200 depending on the county, or a maximum of SEK 300 for a specialist visit. The fee for staying in a hospital is SEK 80 per day. High-cost ceilings also limit the yearly cost for both medical consultations (SEK 900) and prescription medication (SEK 1,800).
Most health care is provided in health centers, where doctors, nurses and other staff work together. The Johanssons have all registered with a health center in the vicinity of their home in Växjö. Responsibility for providing health care is decentralized to the counties and, in some cases, municipalities. A growing number of private health care providers in Sweden are starting to compete with the public care facilities. The clever thing is that the social insurance covers them as well, so the cost to the patient is the same.
Dental care is not quite as subsidized as other health care, and the dentists decide on their own treatment prices. But social insurance still pays for Simon’s and Emma’s check-ups or treatments — until the year they turn twenty. From then on, they will receive a dental care allowance and will be protected by a high-cost ceiling.
Should Anna or Lars lose their job, they will receive unemployment pay linked to their previous salary because they are members of an unemployment insurance program. Without insurance, they would still be entitled to an activity grant from the Social Insurance Agency, but that would mean less money.
An income support benefit provides for those who are not entitled to unemployment pay/activity grant nor sick pay/sickness benefit. This benefit is intended to be a short-term solution to help people get back on their feet. Low-income families are also able to apply for housing allowance.
Swedish elderly care is open to individual choices. Photo: Let Ideas Compete/Flickr
With quite a few years to go, Lars and Anna have already started talking about the financial implications of retirement. They are happy to know that Sweden invests more of its gross domestic product in its elderly citizens than any other country in the world.
All Swedish residents are entitled to a state-financed guaranteed minimum pension from the age of 65, which is the standard retirement age in Sweden. Since Lars and Anna are both employed, they will automatically receive an income pension instead, as well as an employment-based pension that their employer contributes to throughout their working life. But to make sure that they can sustain their relatively high living standard, they complement these pensions with private savings.
Life expectancy in Sweden is about 83 years for women and 79 for men. Anna’s parents are pushing 75, and the Johanssons have started looking into elderly care for them. Swedes are so used to their independent lives that arranging elderly care for your parents is all about finding the best solution to allow your parents to keep leading active lives.
Anna’s parents will probably be able to stay in their own home, where they can get access to public support, including home meal delivery, help with cleaning and shopping, transportation service, as well as social and health care when needed. Should their health deteriorate with age, there is also special housing with around-the-clock care. Most of the elderly care is provided by municipalities, some by private operators.
Rikard Lagerberg & Emma Randecker
Rikard Lagerberg is a writer and editor who has spent most of his adult life in the US and on Ireland. Returning to Sweden he discovered a new curiosity for his native country.
Editor and writer Emma Randecker spent most of her life in Sweden, apart from a couple of longer excursions to France and the UK. It was, in particular, a longing for the changing Swedish seasons that made her go back home after a few years.
Both Rikard and Emma work at the Swedish Institute.
Published by the Swedish Institute on www.sweden.se. All content is protected by Swedish copyright law. The text may be reproduced, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast in any media for non-commercial use with reference to www.sweden.se. However, no photographs or illustrations may be used. For more information on general copyright and permission click here. If you have any questions please contact webmaster.