Using health services abroad

You are free to seek and use health care services abroad. You are entitled to access treatment in another EU country in the same way as the residents of the country.

In the EU countries, all health care service providers must treat clients equally on the basis of treatment need. Access to treatment cannot be accelerated or restricted on the basis of the country in which a client resides or is covered under health insurance or on the basis of their nationality.

An EU country can restrict the admission of clients seeking treatment from other EU countries only if the access of local residents to care would be jeopardized. This can be the case if, for instance, a large number of clients from abroad are seeking treatment. You can check with the national contact point in the country of destination whether there are any current restrictions on the receiving of patients for treatment in the country of destination.

Treatment provider may require a referral

Treatment is provided in accordance with local legislation. You must have a doctor’s referral for treatment if this is a prerequisite for treatment in the destination country.

  • Check in advance whether the place of treatment requires a referral for the treatment planned and whether it should be written by a general practitioner or a specialist.
  • Find out whether a referral written in Finland can be accepted.
  • Also find out the language in which the referral and any other documentation must be written. You must pay for any translation costs yourself.

A doctor in Finland is not usually able to send a referral directly to a treatment provider abroad. Send a referral written in Finland and other necessary information concerning your care to the treatment provider yourself. Remember to ensure that the information is sent securely.

What kind of treatment can be obtained abroad?

Each country provides health care services in accordance with its own legislation. A local health care professional will determine the treatment to be given. Your care may differ from that in Finland. Treatments and procedures vary according to country.

You may receive treatment abroad that is not included in the choice of services provided by the Finnish health care system or which is classified as experimental or non-medical treatment in Finland. The costs incurred by such treatment will not be reimbursed by Kela afterwards. However, it is possible that the patient’s hospital district will purchase the treatment needed by the patient from abroad or send the patient to receive treatment to a rare disease, for example.

You can use both public and private health care services

You can use both public and private health care services in EU countries.

  • If you fall ill during your trip, you will receive treatment with the European Health Insurance Card. The card is accepted by local public health care and operators who have signed an agreement with public health care. Private health care does not accept the European Health Insurance Card.
  • If you travel without a prior authorisation to another EU or EEA country or to Switzerland to receive treatment, it makes no difference with regard to reimbursements whether you use private or public health care services. You can claim reimbursement of treatment costs from Kela retrospectively.
  • If you travel with a prior authorisation to another EU or EEA country, the United Kingdom or to Switzerland to receive treatment, you must make sure that the treatment provider accepts the prior authorisation. Usually a prior authorisation is only accepted in public health care. However, if you have to pay all costs yourself, you can claim reimbursement from Kela retrospectively.

In general, it is not possible to separate health care service providers operating outside Finland into public and private healthcare in the same way as in Finland. Elsewhere in Europe, health care service providers can operate simultaneously both as public and as private service providers. Ensure with the service provider whether you will receive treatment as a patient of the public or private system.