Healthcare in Norway

Norway has an excellent standard of compulsory state funded healthcare. Medical staff are extremely well trained and healthcare in the country is available to all citizens and registered long-term residents. Private healthcare is also available. The Ministry of Health determines healthcare policy and oversees the state system. Healthcare policy is executed by five health regions and the municipalities.


The State System
The health service in Norway is funded predominantly through taxes taken directly from salaries and there is no specific health contribution fund. The National Insurance Administration known as the Trygdeetaten is responsible for the National insurance Scheme NIS, a state insurance scheme that guarantees everybody a basic level of welfare. The NIS provides benefits for illness, accidents, bodily defects, pregnancy, birth, disability, death, and loss of the breadwinner as well as for unemployment and old age. All citizens who live or work in Norway or are on permanent work within the Norwegian Continental Shelf must contribute to the NIS. In addition, people living in Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and Jan Mayen who are employed by a Norwegian employer or who were insured under the National Insurance Act prior to their stay in these areas and certain categories of Norwegian citizens working abroad must pay compulsory National Insurance contributions.

Norway, a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) follows EU regulations on social security. Employees and the self-employed become members of the social security system through payment of national Insurance. Those who do not fulfil these requirements can apply for voluntarily membership in the NIS if their stay in Norway exceeds three months.

Students from Scandinavian countries and Iceland automatically become members of the Norwegian NIS if they register as residents of Norway. Students from other countries automatically qualify for healthcare if they study in the country for over one year. This is an automatic process when you register as a student.

Unemployed persons from the EEA who are looking for work in Norway should ensure they have form E119. This enables them to receive free emergency treatment. This form is available from your home country’s Department of Social Security. There is a variety of other E forms (all of which are available from respective Departments of Social Security) necessary for foreigners from the EEA who wish to reside in Norway and receive state healthcare.

There are relatively few fees in for healthcare in the state system. Inpatient hospital treatment is free to all who qualify, but visits to doctors and specialists as well as prescription medicine incur charges. Citizens must also pay for radiology and laboratory tests and for non-emergency transportation. There are a number of exemptions e.g. for people who suffer from chronic disease, pregnant woman and those who have just given birth.

There are significantly high charges for dental treatment for adults, although some citizens receive subsidised dental care for prioritised patients. Under eighteens are entitled to free dental treatment. 

The cost of prescription medicine falls into one of two groups termed the white class and the blue class. White class medicines are free, whilst blue class are subsidised. 

The Private Sector
Private healthcare does not play a large role in Norway due to the excellent standard of state healthcare. Some private insurers offer complementary health insurance for citizens who want to avoid hospital waiting lists or receive treatment like plastic surgery.

Private health carers are prominent in three areas of Norwegian healthcare, namely the treatment of substance abuse, rehabilitation and dental treatment.

The state’s regional health authorities contract with private facilities and medical staff in order to satisfy patient demand. Treatment on this basis is then free or subsidised.

Doctors are the first point of contact with the Norwegian health system. Citizens can register with the doctor of their choice, but can only change to a different GP twice a year. People seeking state medical care must make sure that their doctor is contracted into the state scheme; otherwise, if you are treated by anyone other than a state funded doctor, you will have to pay the fees yourself. There is a consultation fee each time you visit. Out of normal surgery hours, GPs operate an on-call system. GPs prescribe drugs and provide referrals to specialists and hospitals. They also treat acute and chronic illnesses, and provide preventive care and health education.

Consultants are senior doctors who have completed a higher level of specialised training. GPs refer patients to a consultant if she or he believes that a patient may need specialist help and diagnosis. There are numerous specialist fields of medicine in Norway like dermatology, gynaecology, oncology and paediatrics.

Norway has 85 hospitals, which are located in all major towns and cities. Patients are admitted to hospital either through the emergency department or through a referral by their doctor. Once a patient is admitted treatment is controlled by one of the hospital doctors. The conditions in all hospitals are excellent. There may be waiting lists for some non-emergency care. If you are admitted to hospital under a referral care is free. In cases where the Norwegian hospital system lacks the expertise to provide care, treatment will be arranged abroad at no cost.

Emergency Care
Emergency care is available free to all citizens regardless of their status. Emergency treatment is provided at the emergency room of all hospitals and they are open non-stop all year. You may use their services if you need immediate attention, or if your GP refers you to them.

Norway provides free ambulance services and a roster of GPs who are on call for emergencies. They are required by law to be available via the national health radio network to treat emergency cases.

In remote areas the home nursing services carry out pre-hospital emergency care.

Private Clinics
An increasing number of private health care centres are opening up in urban. The premises, equipment and personnel are funded by the doctors themselves and through private insurance contributions, but it is used only by a limited percentage of people, often as a top up to the basic state healthcare and to cover them for the services deemed non-essential.

Dental care in Norway is predominantly private, although a quarter of all dentists work in the state sector. Those working in the private sector are able to set their own fees.  There are five priority groups who receive free dental care. These are the under 18s, the mentally handicapped, old age pensioners with long-standing illnesses who either lives in an institution or receive home nursing care, people aged 19–20 and those determined as being in need of dental care by the county authorities.  The county authorities can also give free dental care to adults who are not in one of the above groups, providing priority needs have been met first.

The NIS reimburse certain types of dental treatment like maxillofacial surgery, treatment for periodontitis, orthodontic treatment and treatment of the soft tissues in the mouth and jaw.

Emergency call dentistry is available and public and private dentists participate in this scheme.

Dispensing chemists known as Apotek sell medicines in Norway. Only doctors and consultants can prescribe medicine. Non-prescription drugs are priced higher than prescription drugs. Under this system, you may pay less for a packet of aspirin if it has been prescribed by your doctor. All medicines except prescriptions for serious illness must be paid for by the individual. Once a patient has reached a particular level of fees for prescription drugs (usually around 150 EUR), prescription drugs are free.
Over-the-counter medicine is available at pharmacies as well as retail outlets like supermarkets.