How healthcare in Sweden works – also for international students

images 1vårdcentral

I recently visited one of the public hospitals near to my home (Älvsjö). I thought it would be a good occasion to share some things about healthcare in Sweden. How much it costs, how it works and so on …


Some facts about healthcare and public health in Sweden: 

  • The most interesting thing about Sweden’s healthcare system is the availability for everyone including both citizens and immigrants.
  • Sweden spends approximately 9.9 % of its total GDP on healthcare, while India, by comparison, spends 4.0% of its total GDP on healthcare.
  • The mortality rate in Sweden is approximately 27 per every 100,000, compared to 4,200 per every 100,000 in India. Also, the average life expectancy in Sweden is 79.5 years for men and 83.5 years for women – a lot higher than the world average.
  • The medical expenses for children (below 18 years old) are absolutely free. 

So, the Swedish public healthcare system is very well designed and it’s been considered to be best a model for many others countries.


How much does it cost to visit the doctor in Sweden?

One of the myths is that healthcare in the western world is free, but it is not. The healthcare in Sweden is not free but very cheap. Visiting a resident physician costs 150-200 SEK while emergency visits are about 350-450 SEK and staying at a hospital is 80SEK/day.

Note these fees are applicable only for people with “personal number”. If you do not have a personal number then you need to pay 2200 SEK per visit. You can read more about the personal number in this link:

Even better, there is an upper limit to how much you can spend. If you reach the limit of 1100 SEK within one year then all other medical consultations and health care services are free of charge for the rest of that year. Similarly, there is an upper limit for the outpatient pharmaceuticals, which is 2,100 SEK/year, over this limit it is medication prescribed by a physician is completely free.


How to find your doctor

What we need to know as international students, most of us living in student corridors so to be able to meet a physician we must call the hospital (vårdcentral) which is located in your municipality (google their number). Each municipality has a primary care center and calls can be made between 8-16 hours on weekdays. If something serious happens during weekends or outside normal office hours, you must visit emergency to get a help from Vårdguiden (1177).  Read more about 1177 at


Waiting time and service level

I got an appointment two weeks later and the healthcare organization is very well maintained and very clean. Everything is computerized and the physician I met was nice, very friendly and listened deeply to what I was saying before she explained what caused my issues. I felt comfortable and secure and all in all, I very much liked the way the doctor treated me.

The waiting time is the most difficult phases in Sweden, if you are going to an emergency there are several experience we must wait at least 3-7 hours (unless it’s very serious of course). To visit primary health care you usually have to make an appointment which will be given after two weeks or so. Of course, this will vary depending on the situation of the patient. So be prepared for the worst when it comes to waiting times.

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