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Health Care in SwedenSweden has the highest income tax rate in the world. More than 57% is annually deducted from people’s incomes. However, Sweden placed seventh out of 156 countries in the World Happiness Report 2019, and its healthcare system is one of the best in the world.

In 1995, Sweden joined the European Union and its population recently reached over 10 million people. Healthcare is financed through taxes and most health fees are very low. Sweden operates on the principle that those who need medical care most urgently are treated first. Higher education is also free, not only to Swedes, but also to those who reside in the rest of the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland. Like healthcare, it is largely financed by tax revenue. Here are 10 facts about healthcare in Sweden.

 10 Facts About Healthcare in Sweden

  1. Sweden has a decentralized universal healthcare system for everyone. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs dictates health policy and budgets, but the 21 regional councils finance health expenditures through tax funding; an additional 290 municipalities take care of individuals who are disabled or elderly. To service 10.23 million people, Sweden has 70 regionally-owned public hospitals, seven university hospitals, and six private hospitals.

  2. Most medical fees are capped and have a high-cost ceiling. According to the Swedish law, hospitalization fees are not allowed to surpass 100 kr (Swedish Krona), which is equivalent to $10.88, a day and, in most regions, the charge for ambulance or helicopter service is capped at 1,100 kr ($120). Prescription drugs have a fee cap and patients never pay more than 2,350 kr ($255) in a one-year period. In the course of one year, the maximum out-of-pocket cost is 1,150 kr ($125) for all medical consultations. If the person exceeds the cap, all other consultations will be free. Additionally, medical services are free for all people under the age of 18.

  3. The cost for medical consultations not only has a price cap, but is generally low. The average cost of a primary care visit is 150 kr-300 kr ($16-$33) and the cost of a specialist consultation, including mental health services, ranges from 200 kr-400 kr ($22-$42). The cost of hospitalization, including pharmaceuticals, does not exceed 100 kr ($11) per day and people under the age of 20 are exempt from all co-payments. Healthcare services, such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and maternity care, are also free and have no co-payments.

  4. All dental care for people under the age of 23 is free. When a person turns 23, they no longer qualify for free dental health care in Sweden and must pay out of pocket. However, the government pays them annual subsidies, or an allowance, of 600 kr ($65) to pay for dental expenses. In Sweden, the cost of a tooth extraction is 950 kr ($103) and the cleaning and root filling for a single root canal costs 3,150 kr ($342). If dental care costs total anywhere between 3,000 kr-15,000 kr ($326-$1,632), the patient is reimbursed 50% of the cost. If it exceeds 15,000 kr, 85% of the cost is reimbursed.

  5. To battle its large medical waiting lists, Sweden has implemented a 0-30-90-90 rule. The wait-time guarantee, or the 0-30-90-90 rule, ensures that there will be zero delays, meaning patients will receive immediate access to health care advice and a seven-day waiting period to see a general practitioner. The rule also guarantees that a patient will not wait more than 90 days to see a specialist and will receive surgical treatment, like cataract removal or hip-replacement surgery, a maximum of 90 days after diagnosis. Sweden’s government also committed 500 kr million ($55 million) to significantly decrease wait time for all cancer treatments. In 2016, Sweden developed a plan to further improve its health services by 2025 through the adoption of e-health.

  6. In 2010, Sweden made private healthcare insurance available. The use of private health insurance has been increasing due to the low number of hospitals, long waiting times to receive healthcare, and Sweden’s priority treatment of emergency cases first. In Sweden, one in 10 people do not rely on Sweden’s universal healthcare but instead purchase private health insurance. While the costs for private plans vary, one can expect to pay 4,000 kr ($435) annually for one person, on average.

  7. Sweden’s life expectancy is 82.40 years old. This surpasses the life expectancies in Germany, the UK, and the United States. Maternal healthcare in Sweden is particularly strong because both parents are entitled to a 480-day leave at 80% salary and their job is guaranteed when they come back. Sweden also has one of the lowest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Four in 100,000 women die during childbirth and there are 2.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are 5.4 physicians per 1,000 people, which is twice as great as in the U.S and the U.K, and 100% of births are assisted by medical personnel.

  8. The leading causes of death are Ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and colorectal cancer. While the biggest risk factors that drive most deaths are tobacco, dietary risks, high blood pressure and high body-mass index, only 20.6% of the Swedish population is obese and 85% of Swedes do not smoke. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ Index) also estimates that, in 2016, the rate of amenable mortality, or people with potentially preventable diseases, were saved at a rate of 95.5% in Sweden. The HAQ Index estimates how well healthcare in Sweden functions; the index shows that it is one of the best in the world.

  9. Sweden’s health expenditure represents a little over 11% of its GDP, most of which is funded by municipal and regional taxes. Additionally, in Sweden, all higher education is free, including medical schools. There are no tuition fees and a physician can expect to have an average monthly salary of 77,900 kr ($8,500).

  10. In Sweden, 1 in 5 people is 65 or older, but the birth rate and population size are still growing. Because Sweden has one of the best social welfare and healthcare systems in the world, people live longer and therefore 20% of the population does not generate income or pay taxes from their salary. This dynamic stagnates social welfare benefits and slows down the economy. Increasing immigration and a rise in births are the two solutions to ensure that the younger generations will receive the same benefits. Swedish-born women have an average of 1.7 children and foreign-born women have an average of 2.1 children. In 1990, Sweden broke the 2.1 children fertility rate but quickly dropped below 2.0 in 2010. Since 2010, Sweden has seen an increase of 100,000-150,000 immigrants and has seen 45,000 citizens emigrate.

In 2018, Sweden reached its record highest GDP (PPP) per capita of almost $50,000. Despite having the highest taxes in the world, the living conditions and healthcare in Sweden are some of the best. With time, its population will continue to grow and the healthcare system will continue to advance.

Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Sweden
As one of the more progressive countries in the world, Sweden boasts multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations actively working toward improving citizens’ health and longevity.  Sweden also possesses an efficient and well-equipped health care system. Thanks to these efforts, the country’s average life expectancy is improving. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Sweden, including current initiatives to continue improving the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Sweden

  1. The average life expectancy in Sweden is 82.2 years with men living an average of 80.3 years and women living an average of 84.3 years. Sweden has the 16th-highest life expectancy from birth in the world. The average life expectancy in Sweden is about four years more than the United States’ average life expectancy (78.6 years). The average, including every country in the world, is a little over 79 years.
  2. In the past century, the life expectancy of Sweden improved from about 55-58 years to 82-84 years, a significant jump of about 25 years.
  3. Citizens’ longevity is due in part to Sweden’s commitment to environmental cleanliness. The water quality is satisfactory; 96 percent of those included in a poll approved of their country’s drinking water. A lack of pollutants may also contribute to Sweden’s higher-than-average life expectancy.
  4. A sense of community helps many achieve a high quality of life in Sweden. Ninety-one percent of citizens report that they know “someone they could rely on in time of need.” Along with high voter turnout, the country’s civic engagement keeps citizens socially involved, enhancing their health and well-being.
  5. Sweden’s health care system has one of the highest rankings in the world. The country’s universal health care system enables those in poverty to access important services for themselves and their families. Affordability of services is crucial for many citizens and Sweden is only improving in this regard.
  6. Life expectancy is improving thanks to efforts to curb self-harming behaviors and remedy preventable lower respiratory infections. As the country’s health care system improves, the rates of premature death from preventable causes are declining for those in poverty. Premature death from lower respiratory infections has decreased by 49 percent from 1990 to 2010.
  7. The Public Health Agency of Sweden commits to improving the lives of Swedish citizens. A recent study showed the effectiveness of vaccines for children. Since Sweden offers universal health care, children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds receive the medical treatment they need. New studies are being conducted to measure the effectiveness of treating boys for human papilloma virus (HPV), even though the virus normally afflicts girls. These studies help Sweden continue to improve life expectancy for all its citizens.
  8. Seven percent of Swedes live below the EU’s poverty threshold. This is lower than the average of people living below the poverty threshold in other EU countries (10 percent). While the poverty rate has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, efforts to reduce the poverty rate and enhance life expectancy are growing. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or Sida, is a Swedish government agency that functions to eliminate global poverty. In the fight to end poverty domestically and abroad, Sida makes enhancing life expectancy a priority in its humanitarian work. The agency is public under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  9. In Sweden, government grants and municipal taxes fund the majority of elderly care. The country’s health care system subsidizes its elderly citizens for medical care. In different municipalities throughout the country, elderly patients can request in-home caregivers or relocation to live-in facilities that provide medical services.
  10. Easy access to sanitation has also helped Swedes live longer than the world average. Just over 99 percent of the urban population has access to sanitation, while 99.6 percent of the rural population have such access. No matter where one lives in the country, Sweden offers sanitation to all citizens, improving the overall life expectancy of Sweden.

The Swedish government involves a large body of agencies dedicated to providing the best health care to its citizens. As a result, life expectancy in Sweden is one of the best in the world. Even those living below the poverty line can still access the services they need, and the life expectancy of all Swedish citizens is improving.

– Aric Hluch
Photo: Flickr