Health Insurance for Foreigners and Expats in Finland
Finland beckons expats with its exceptional quality of life, beautiful countryside, and strong economy. The majority of expats settle in and around the capital city, Helsinki. The city also offers excellent services, attractions, and amenities. While it’s not a budget-friendly destination, the cost of living in Helsinki is lower than in New York or London. However, like all destinations, there’s still a lot to adjust to once you arrive. Understanding in advance how health insurance in Finland works will be one less task to figure out once you move!
Overview of Finland’s Public Health Insurance Scheme
Finns have one of the highest standards of living in the world. And by many measurements, Finland’s healthcare is exemplary. However, the World Health Organization ranks Finland’s healthcare system 31st in the world. While this is an excellent ranking, there is room for improvement. For instance, 31st is far below the country’s global ranking for education and childcare.
Finland’s public health system is called the National Health Insurance System. It is extremely comprehensive and covers medical costs, dental costs, and even travel costs to obtain medical care. The system is divided into three levels of care: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Care at the primary level focuses on preventative care and routine physician consultations at municipal health centers or terveysasemat. The secondary and tertiary levels focus on advanced specialist care through district hospitals or sairaalat.
Locals say that medical care in Finland is underfunded. For example, less than 10% of the country’s GDP is directed toward medical care. As well, some health clinics are understaffed. In some cases, it can take more than two weeks for patients to get a GP appointment.
Pros and Cons of Using the Local Health Insurance System
Finland’s public healthcare system has excellent hospitals, clinics, and world-class physicians. Patients can expect comprehensive, respectful care in modern, comfortable facilities. However, wait times are a problem. For instance, it can take weeks just to get a routine appointment. Specialist care appointments take even longer. The situation is even direr for rural patients.
By contrast, private clinics and hospitals have much shorter waiting times. As well, the staff is multilingual and patient facilities are more comfortable and private.
Read: Hospitals in Finland
How Expats Can Qualify For Health Insurance
Expats from other Nordic countries are entitled to receive the same quality of care as Finns do. An identification card is the only thing Nordic citizens need to prove their eligibility. As well, EU citizens are also eligible to receive medical services at the same rate as Finns. However, in order to do so, they must have a European Health Insurance Card before they travel. The EHIC is free of charge and available from each member state.
All permanent residents of Finland are eligible for public health insurance. As Finland’s healthcare system is based on municipal residency, you must have kotikunta status, or “right to a municipality of residence” to be eligible. The Social Insurance Institute of Finland, known as KELA, issues a personal health insurance card. This card allows expats to access the medical system. Additionally, the cost of prescription medication is reduced if you present your KELA card at the pharmacy.
What You Need To Know About Processes
All expats in Finland are required to register for public health insurance if they’ve been working in the country for four months or longer. Everyone registered receives a pubic health insurance card known as a KELA card. This card must be used at each health appointment. Those with traditional employment have automatic payroll deductions to contribute to the health system.
Public medical care in Finland is not free. Patients pay modest fees and this accounts for about 10% of system funding. General taxation covers the remainder of the costs. However, for the sake of affordability, fees are capped both in terms of how much a patient will pay at each visit and also how many times they can be charged throughout the course of a year.
Benefits of a Global Health Insurance Plan in Finland
It is possible to book an appointment at a private clinic with your KELA card if you’d rather not go through the public system. However, patients must pay their medical expenses upfront and then claim reimbursement. It’s important for patients to know that only a portion of the fees will be reimbursed. There are set guidelines that determine how much reimbursement is possible. As such, it pays to carry private global health insurance for foreigners in Finland to offset the outstanding costs, which are usually quite high.
Another benefit of global health insurance is that you are free to visit neighboring countries for medical care. Sometimes it is not possible to find the specialist that you need and a doctor in a neighboring county is more appealing.
Best Medical Plan for Expats in Finland
Cigna Global Insurance Plan
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
Best Health Plan for U.S. Citizens in Finland
Xplorer Worldwide Medical Plan
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US citizens abroad
How Routine Doctor Visits Work
Patients in Finland must call their public health center – known as a terveysasema – in order to make an appointment with a doctor or a nurse. Depending on the nature of the problem patients might see a nurse first. If the nurse deems the problem serious, a doctor’s appointment comes next. Finnish culture greatly values punctuality. You’ll be charged a no-show fee if you miss an appointment or even arrive late.
Finns have a reputation for being reserved and quiet or even abrupt when it comes to conversation. While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary (just look at groups of college students happily chattering away!) small talk and casual conversation don’t play a large role in the Finnish doctor-patient relationship. As such, this small cultural difference can be a big adjustment for expats from North America who are used to warm conversations and physicians who take extra care to break bad news gently.
How To Find A Family Physician
New residents in Finland are automatically registered as patients in a local health center. You cannot make a doctor’s appointment at a different health center. However, if you want to switch health centers, you can do so. You must complete a request form at your original health center. After that, requests are generally accommodated in less than one month.
Health centers are administered by municipal councils. As such, there is no centralized organization or directory for the country.
The Role of Saunas in Finnish Healthcare
Saunas play a pivotal role in maintaining the physical and mental health of Finns. The sauna experience is such a crucial part of Finnish culture that an estimated 99% of Finns enjoy at least one session a week. Sometimes called the poor man’s pharmacy, saunas are credited with easing a number of ailments, from colds and congestion to depression to cardiovascular complaints. Moreover, locals are likely to recommend a sauna session to an expat complaining of sore muscles or workplace stress. Above all, saunas promote kinship, friendship, and strong working relationships. It’s completely normal for colleagues to go to the sauna together. Furthermore, some workplaces even have their own in-house sauna as a perk!