The Norwegian health care system can be characterized as a semi-centralized national healthcare system. The public healthcare system covers planned and acute primary, hospital and ambulatory care.
Primary healthcare is the responsibility of the municipalities. The funds received for organising healthcare are not earmarked so the municipalities are free to set their own healthcare budgets. The municipalities offer healthcare through contracted private practitioners. The municipalities provide primary care through contracts with independently practicing general practitioners. Normally, each person registers with one doctor and has the right to actively choose his/her doctor.
Specialist care is the responsibility of the four regional health authorities (RHA). Almost all hospitals are public and there aren’t any private alternatives for acute hospitalization. In specialist care, the patient has the right to freely choose a treatment provider among all public hospitals in the country and all the private service providers that have been contracted by the RHA.
Some private elective care hospitals also exist but private healthcare is not reimbursed in Norway, unless the service provider has a contract with the public system.
The role of counties in the provision of care is limited to statutory dental care.
You are entitled to medically necessary treatment, when you are temporarily staying in Norway. Medically necessary treatment usually refers to treatment that cannot wait for your return home. You may need such treatment in case of acute illness or accident. You can also receive treatment related to pregnancy and childbirth or to a chronic illness. The need for treatment must emerge during the course of your stay. You will receive treatment on the same terms and at the same price as the locals. If your illness requires regular treatment while you are temporarily staying abroad, agree with the treatment provider beforehand on the arrangement of treatment. Treatments that need to be arranged in advance include, for example, dialysis, oxygen therapy, specialised care of asthma and chemotherapy as well as echocardiography in chronic autoimmune diseases.
Persons covered by Finnish social security do not require a European Health Insurance Card when travelling in the Nordic countries. It is therefore usually sufficient in Norway’s public healthcare system to show your ID or valid Kela card. If you didn’t have your ID or valid Kela card with you, you might have to pay the full price of the treatment yourself. In this case, you can apply for reimbursement from Kela retrospectively.
In need of doctor, you should seek care with a general practitioner (fastlege) contracted by the municipality. Most general practitioners (GP) in Norway have such a contract. GP practices usually comprise one to six physicians. Contact information for regional practices can be found on the Fastleger site. You can also request for doctors´ contact information from Helfo on +47 23 32 70 00.
GPs act as gatekeepers so a GP’s referral is needed to see a specialist. There are both hospital-based specialists as well as outpatient specialists available. In specialist care, the patients have the right to choose their treatment centre from all the public hospitals in the country as well as from the private service providers who have been contracted by the RHAs. Specialists hired by the hospitals can only charge a general fee, but those working in practices can charge more freely. In principle, patients have a choice of specialist.
Costs for GP and specialist visits are partially reimbursed. The public healthcare providers have a price limit, which they cannot exceed with their pricing. In principle, you should not have to apply for reimbursements retrospectively for services covered by the public healthcare system. You receive treatment at a price in which the reimbursement has already been made and so you should only have to pay for the standard patient contribution. However, reimbursement of travel costs is sought retrospectively. Read more about reimbursement of travel costs on the Helsenorge site.
If you fall sick after-hours, call after-hours services (legevakt) in 116 117. The more densely populated municipalities have walk-in centres where nurses triage patients and answer calls, with several doctors seeing patients throughout the day and night. In smaller municipalities, patients call the after-hours phone number and speak with a nurse who decides whether a GP should be seen.
Costs for after-hours services (legevakt) are higher than for ordinary primary healthcare services. Hospital treatment (including medication) and emergency ambulatory transport are free of charge. If you are being treated on an outpatient basis or by a specialist in a hospital´s outpatient clinic, the patient fees will be charged in the same way as for a visit to a general practitioner. Outpatient clinic visits for patients under 16 and for specific special groups are free. You may have to pay extra charges for certain imaging examinations (for example, X-rays, ultrasound scans) and for supplies (e.g. hospital clothing).
In larger cities, there are also a few privately owned and run after-hours clinics where patients pay in full.
Costs of dental treatment are not reimbursed in Norway. You usually pay the full cost yourself. In special cases (for example, dental surgery procedures) you can receive a reimbursement. The treating dentist will usually advise you. However, dental care in the public sector for patients aged 18 and under is free.
Most prescription medicines in Norway are non-reimbursable, i.e. you pay the full price for them in the pharmacy.
In an emergency, you can order an ambulance from the national emergency number 113. Usually, a doctor will provide you with a referral for hospital treatment, but in an emergency you can go directly to the nearest public hospital or to a hospital that has an agreement with the public healthcare system.
Returning to Finland (specific to the Nordic countries)
If, due to illness, you have to return to Finland using a more expensive method of travel (for example, special transportation) than you would have normally, you will be entitled to reimbursement from Norway. The reimbursement will cover the additional expenses incurred from the more expensive method of travel. Thus you pay the same amount for the return journey as you would have paid when travelling in an ordinary way when healthy.
The requirement for reimbursement is that you have a medical certificate written in Norway which indicates the necessity of a more expensive method of travel.
Read more about suddenly falling ill in Europe.
Read more about reimbursement of costs of treatment abroad.
If you are planning to travel to Norway for the purpose of using healthcare services, you can find general information on our site concerning seeking treatment. Information concerning Norway is available on the website of the National Contact Point of Norway.
Quality and safety of treatment
In the event of treatment injuries, the legislation and patient insurance of the country providing the treatment is always applied. In case you are unhappy with the treatment you received, you should primarily try to sort the matter out with the treatment provider. The national contact point can help you with finding the right authority if you wish to make a complaint.