While many countries struggle to create and maintain an effective healthcare system, Norway has become a symbol of what a successful national healthcare system can look like. Norway is one of the kingdoms of the Scandinavian subregion of Europe. The country of 5.2 million people borders Sweden on the west and is east of the Shetland Islands. “Norwegian values are rooted in egalitarian ideals,” meaning that everyone should have equal opportunities. These principles are reflected in the country’s healthcare system.
Healthcare in Norway is designed for equal access, but it is by no means free. The country’s universal healthcare system is heavily subsidized by the government through taxation. Such high taxes have allowed Norway to run a broad welfare system that provides sickness coverage, unemployment coverage, social security and pension benefits that often allow even those who are low-income or impoverished to participate in healthcare. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Norway.
8 Facts About Healthcare in Norway
- All participants in the Norwegian healthcare system must cover all medical expenses up to 2040 krone (about $210) before they receive an exemption card. Then their treatment for the rest of the year is free.
- Norwegian spending on healthcare on a per head basis, which is currently at $6,187 per person, is the fourth highest in the world. The United States is highest at $10,600 per person.
- The Norwegian National Insurance Scheme is centrally controlled by the Norwegian Health Economics Administration (Helseøkonomiforvaltningen, HELFO); the administration of healthcare, however, is decentralized and handled by local municipal authorities. When Norwegians are traveling or living abroad, the country’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), a similar economic agreement to the European Union, and possession of the European Health Insurance Card allows them the same healthcare as the country they are staying in. After six months in Norway, documented immigrants can access healthcare. Visitors to Norway who are not members of the EEA are expected to pay in full.
- People can opt-out of the public system and choose private insurance instead. People will sometimes choose private insurance if they want to have certain procedures done quicker than the public system can handle. Nine percent of Norway’s population has private insurance at an average cost of 508 krone ($56) a month, and 91% of this insurance is covered by their jobs — making it relatively affordable.
- The Norwegian government has created a “Qualification Program” to deal with extended joblessness and poverty that might restrict affording healthcare. The program is designed to overcome social obstacles and a lack of skills through various activities. Participants usually find employment after four years.
- In Norway, life expectancy is 81 years old for men and 84 years old for women. This ranks the country 17th in the world. This longevity is attributed to a generally active lifestyle, a diet high in fish — specifically salmon —and a strong healthcare system.
- Although healthcare is robust in Norway, there are still areas of concern. Tobacco smoking has decreased, but there has been an increase in the use of a smokeless tobacco powder called snus, which is inhaled and can potentially increase the risk of oral cancers. In addition, childhood obesity is on the rise in Norway. Obesity among five to 19-year-olds has increased by more than 50% over the past decade.
- From 2013 to 2017, spending on pharmaceuticals increased by 40% in Norway, as national prescription drug use has increased. The Norwegian Health Economics Administration handles the reimbursement of the cost of pharmaceuticals. Distribution is highly regulated, as only community and hospital pharmacies can distribute medicine in the Norway health system.
Norway’s egalitarian and progressive ideals have helped make its healthcare system one of the best in the world. The country still faces challenges, including high rates of childhood obesity and cancer risk from smokeless tobacco. Norway is working to address these problems, for example by prohibiting the advertising of all tobacco products. The heavy taxation required for funding many public programs, including healthcare, often falls more heavily on those in lower-income brackets, but the government provides a thorough safety net to assist them. Norway has made great advances. The country remains a model of what a strong welfare state and an effectively run universal healthcare system can achieve.
– Joseph Maria