Impact of COVID-19 reflected in statistics on seeking treatment in 2020


Statistics on cross-border health care in 2020 compiled by the Contact Point for Cross-Border Healthcare and Kela have been published. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is reflected in the statistics on cross-border healthcare.

The statistics on cross-border health care can be found in the SlideShare account of the Contact Point. There are also separate statistics on seeking dental care. The statistics contain information, for example, on which countries people from Finland sought treatment in and how Kela reimbursed for treatment provided abroad.

Seeking treatment means that a person travels to another country without prior authorisation to receive treatment. Kela reimburses the costs of seeking treatment independently in EU and EEA countries and Switzerland. When interpreting the statistics, it is important to note that you can apply for reimbursement from Kela up to six months after the treatment is provided, so the data may appear in the statistics with a delay. In addition, the statistics show only those cases of seeking treatment for which the client has claimed reimbursement from Kela.

Downturn in seeking treatment

The countries where Finns most often sought treatment independently in 2020 were Estonia, Spain and Hungary, as in 2019. However, for all the top three countries, both the costs paid by the customer and the reimbursement granted by Kela decreased from the previous year.

On the basis of the statistics, fewer applications were made for prior authorisation for treatment in EU or EEA countries and Switzerland. The COVID-19 pandemic may have affected how much people seek treatment abroad.

More medicines purchased abroad than before

The statistics reveal that more medicines purchased in the EU and EEA countries and Switzerland were paid and reimbursed than before. Kela granted reimbursements for medicines purchased abroad in the amount of approximately EUR 141,000, whereas in 2019, the corresponding figure was approximately EUR 72,000. The other costs do not show the same increase as medicines. The costs and reimbursements of medicines bought outside the EU also increased compared to previous years.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have had an impact on the increased reimbursement of medicines purchased abroad. It is possible, for example, that people had to stay abroad longer than planned, in which case they also had to buy more medicines.

Outside the EU, health services used the most in Thailand

Kela does not grant reimbursement for seeking treatment independently outside the EU area. However, reimbursement of the costs of medical care can be obtained if the treatment was provided for a sudden or chronic illness, pregnancy or childbirth.

In 2020, Kela granted the most reimbursements outside the EU for medical care costs incurred in Thailand, the United States and Turkey, as in previous years. For Thailand, both the costs paid by the client and the reimbursements granted by Kela slightly increased from the previous year. For example, in 2020, Kela reimbursed EUR 59,000 for medical costs incurred in Thailand, compared to EUR 40,000 in 2019.

Fewer and fewer seek dental care

The statistics on dental care show that fewer people than before sought dental care abroad independently in 2020. The decrease is reflected in both the number of decisions and the amount of compensation granted. For example, in 2020, reimbursements for dental care received abroad amounted to approximately EUR 162,000, while in 2019, the figure was more than EUR 200,000. Statistics show that seeking dental care abroad has decreased year on year.

In most cases, dental care is sought in Estonia. However, the statistics show that claims for reimbursement for dental care received in Estonia have been on the decline. For example, in 2020, Kela granted reimbursements for treatment in the amount of approximately EUR 140,000, while in 2016, the figure was approximately EUR 430,000.