Publish date: 21 December 2020
Navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system can be one of the hardest parts of living abroad. To help, we've pulled together this short guide that covers everything from your rights as a patient in Sweden to the availability of interpreters and the cost of appointments.
Emergency, primary and specialist care
Everyone in Sweden is entitled to emergency care. EU citizens with a European Health Insurance Card have the right to emergency care at the same subsidised cost as Swedish residents, while citizens from non-EU countries are responsible for the full cost.
Consequently, citizens of non-EU countries are strongly advised to take out comprehensive health insurance from their home countries to cover any initial costs before being registered as residents. It will be difficult to meet a regular primary care physician before you are registered as a Swedish resident with a personal identity number but you can visit your local hospital’s A&E in case of emergency.
Once you have your personal identity number you can visit doctors at the same cost as Swedish citizens.
Register with a local primary care doctor
Once you have received your personal identity number, you can register with a local primary care doctor. 1177.se offers advice on choosing a doctor as well as a useful search function (in Swedish) for healthcare facilities near you. Usually, you will register at a local health centre (vårdcentral) where several doctors and nurses practice. Registering usually involves sending a form to the health centre with your personal details, confirming that you would like to register at that centre. You will then be assigned a main primary care doctor.
Once you’ve registered at a health centre, you can call to make an appointment if you fall ill. Some centres even have online booking systems and many health centres also offer walk-in hours.
Seeing a specialist
Generally, your first contact when you fall ill should be your primary care doctor. If you require specialist care, your doctor will send a referral to a specialist, who will contact you with information concerning your appointment.
Healthcare information, fees & interpreters
The official website 1177.se offers extensive information on healthcare, including general information on your rights as a patient, advice on basic healthcare issues, and help finding the right doctor’s practice close to you. You can also call 1177 from your phone while in Sweden for free healthcare advice.
Patient fees for primary care vary between SEK 100 and 200 depending on the county council. For specialist visits, there is an additional fee of a maximum SEK 300.
The maximum cost for visits to a doctor in a 12-month period is SEK 1,100. This limit is referred to as high-cost protection. This means that if you require regular visits to the doctor, you will only need to pay until you reach this amount. For the remainder of the 12-month period, your visits will be free.
There is a similar cost threshold for prescription medication so that nobody pays more than SEK 2,200 in a 12-month period.
More information about patient fees at 1177.se.
Most healthcare professionals speak English. However, if you or someone in your family needs an interpreter to communicate with your doctor, this can be arranged free of charge.
If your doctor prescribes you medication, you can collect your prescription at one of many pharmacies. Prescriptions are often sent electronically so that you can collect your medication from any pharmacy without presenting a paper prescription. If you’re unsure of where to collect your prescription, you can ask at your health centre.
Pharmacists are highly educated and will give you instructions on how to use your prescription medication. You can also ask pharmacists for advice on non-prescription drugs.
Dental care is free of charge for everyone up until the age of 20. Patients over 20 receive a dental care allowance for regular visits to the dentist. As with medical healthcare, you are free to choose your dentist. Use the search function at 1177.se (in Swedish) to find a dentist.
See the Social Insurance Agency’s guide to dental care in Sweden for guidelines and cost estimates.