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Whether you’re travelling for leisure or work, or have taken the plunge and set up home there, it’s important to know how to access healthcare in Norway. Read on to find out more about what treatment you are entitled to as a citizen of the European Union, and what the costs may be.
Healthcare when you are travelling to Norway for leisure or work on a temporary basis
European Health Insurance Card
The most important thing to know is that a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will allow you to receive state healthcare in Norway if you are on a temporary trip there, either at a reduced cost or for free. You will need to show it whenever you receive healthcare services.
However, you should be aware that it won’t cover you for private treatment, travelling back to the UK, mountain rescue or while you are on a cruise.
You should also take great care to double-check that the treatment you receive is state-funded and not private, for example if a hotel or travel representative arranges this for you.
It’s also important to understand that you may not necessarily receive all the healthcare for free that you would in the UK; for example, you will be charged a standard fee for consulting a GP. But the advantage of having a valid EHIC is that you will receive healthcare on the same basis as citizens of your destination country, making it a fair and equitable way to access treatment for all EU citizens.
EHICs are valid up to 31 October 2019 when the UK is expected to leave the EU. We don’t know at the current time what the arrangements will be after this date.
So, if your trip is planned for this date or after, you should buy private travel insurance to make sure that you are covered for any treatment you might need while you are away.
But apart from this, the advice is to ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover any additional costs, even if you have an up-to-date EHIC and are travelling to a country within the EU where it is valid.
This means that you should retain any receipts or paperwork relating to your medical treatment to enable you to claim a refund.
How to find and access healthcare in Norway
Norway is considered to have an excellent healthcare system, which currently sits at number 11 in the World Health Organization rankings.
Just like in the UK, you can see a GP at a medical centre or be treated in a hospital if required with a doctor’s referral.
Make sure that you access only public rather than private healthcare so that you are only charged the standard fee (on presentation of your EHIC).
To find out more about receiving healthcare if you are travelling to Norway, see the ‘Foreigners in Norway’ section at [link: https://helsenorge.no/].
Anyone can receive emergency healthcare in Norway if their needs are urgent. Inpatient hospital treatment is free, but you will need to present your EHIC to show that you are entitled to it.
In an emergency, dial 113. You will need to ask for an ambulance to take you to the nearest public hospital. Ambulance and paramedic assistance is free.
You may find some of these phrases useful:
- A&E Department – Legevakt
- I need an ambulance – Jeg trenger en ambulanse
- I am in pain – Jeg har vondt
- There has been a car accident – Det har vært en bilulykke
To receive hospital care, you will need to be referred by a GP. Double-check that you are being referred to a state hospital so that you can use your EHIC and receive free treatment. You will be subject to a standard non-refundable fee to see a consultant doctor in hospital as an outpatient, but the good news is that inpatient care and any medication needed as part of this is normally free.
If you need to see a GP in Norway, you can do so at your nearest medical centre. Most open between the hours of 8am and 3pm, and you will need to make an appointment. These are usually available on the same day you call to make it. Note that one major difference with the UK system is that if you are late you will miss your slot and have to pay a fee as compensation.
While dental treatment is provided free up until age 18 in Norway, and 75% of the costs are covered for 19- and 20-year-olds, adults aged 20 and over have to pay for their dental care and this is generally non-refundable, although there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Most prescriptions in Norway are subject to a charge. Medication will either be on the “white” list, meaning you have to pay for it, or on the “blue” list. The items listed on the latter are for long-term or chronic illnesses, and these are discounted by 50% for people of working age and 10% for pensioners, on sight of a valid EHIC card.
Pensioners will need to confirm that they are in receipt of a UK state pension in order to take advantage of the lower rate.
Giving birth while on holiday
While airline and ferry operators have rules in place about pregnant women using their services to travel after a certain number of weeks, on rare occasions a baby will put in an early appearance and be delivered on holiday abroad before their due date. If this happens and you give birth unexpectedly in Norway, your EHIC will ensure that you are covered for the care you need relating to the birth and any treatment you need as a result. You will also need a maternity S2 form. Contact Overseas Healthcare Services to arrange this:
- From the UK: 0191 218 1999
- From outside the UK: +44 191 218 1999
However, it is strongly recommended that you take out additional private travel insurance to bear any additional costs, such as accommodation if you have to postpone travel back to the UK while you recover.
What if I don’t have my EHIC with me?
If you travel without your EHIC, you can obtain a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) which proves that you are entitled to an EHIC and its benefits. You will need to phone Overseas Healthcare Services on the following numbers between 8am to 6pm UK time Monday to Friday to get one of these:
- From the UK: 0191 218 1999
- From outside the UK: +44 191 218 1999
Can I bring my own medicine to Norway?
If you need to bring drugs or other treatment with you, you will need to prove that it has been prescribed for you. This takes some preparation, so make sure you cater for this well in advance.
You can do this by carrying with you a letter from your GP with the following details:
- Your name
- An explanation of which countries you are visiting and what your itinerary is
- A list detailing your medication, the doses and strength
- Your prescribing healthcare professional’s signature
It’s also useful to get your GP to include both the generic and brand name of your medication and to get the letter translated into Norwegian. Don’t forget to organise collecting the right amount of medication for your holiday or trip in good time.
You will need to check whether your medication is a controlled drug. If this is the case, you will have to ensure that you comply with the rules on exporting drugs from the UK and will have to apply for a Norwegian import licence at a Norwegian consulate in the UK.
When taking your medication or other treatment with you to Norway, make sure that it is:
- Within the expiry date
- In its original packaging
- Accurately labelled
- Packed in your hand luggage with your GP letter and prescription
- Stored in a cool bag or flask if it needs to be kept below a certain temperature
What happens after the UK leaves the EU?
As mentioned previously, it’s unclear exactly what the arrangements for healthcare will be once the UK leaves the EU.
If you are planning travel on or after 31 October 2019, make sure you have sufficient travel insurance in place to cover any healthcare costs.
The government is negotiating with Norway regarding arrangements for receiving healthcare once the UK exits the EU, but these are not known at the present time.
What are my healthcare rights if I live permanently in Norway as a British citizen?
It’s important to know that your EHIC will only cover you for up to 90 days. If you are planning on living or working in Norway for longer than this, you will need to register to receive the same entitlement to healthcare as Norwegian citizens.
The majority of the cost of healthcare in Norway is funded by the National Insurance Scheme. Lesser contributions are provided by patients or are covered by additional private health insurance.
If you pay a total amount of 2,369 NOK (figures valid at the time of writing in 2019) over a year for your medical appointments and treatment, the National Insurance Scheme will cover the remainder of your expenses.
In addition, you can take out private health insurance to cover the patient contribution part of costs and to access private healthcare.
If you are working in Norway on behalf of a UK company, you may be eligible for health coverage paid for by the UK. You will need to check this with the National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office in the UK by telephoning:
- From the UK: 0300 200 3500
- From outside the UK: +44 191 203 7010
Maternity care in Norway
Once you are part of the National Insurance Scheme, you will have the right to a range of maternity services.
You will be entitled to midwife care at a Maternity and Child Health Care Centre (“helsetasjon”) or from your GP. These consultations are free. You will normally receive eight antenatal appointments and one ultrasound (usually during week 17-19) in the course of your pregnancy. As an employee, you will have the right to paid time off from work for your antenatal appointments.
You will also have the chance to visit the hospital where you plan to give birth around a month before your due date to register. Here you will receive information about what the hospital offers in terms of pain relief and other treatments, and get the chance to see the birthing facilities.
You can expect to stay in hospital for around three days after the birth, and some hospitals have hotels on their premises where family members can stay.
While nearly all births take place in hospital, there is a growing trend towards home births and these can be arranged through your midwife.
Within two weeks of your baby’s birth, you will receive a visit from your health visitor to check the health of your baby and find out more about his or her vaccination schedule. This appointment can also take place in a health centre.
Pensioners and healthcare in Norway
If you receive an exportable UK pension or a different kind of exportable benefit, you could be eligible for state-provided medical care funded by the UK. To make this happen, you will need to get an S1 certificate. This can be used up until the UK exits the EU.
You can contact the International Pension Centre, part of the Department for Work and Pensions on:
- From the UK: 0191 218 7777
- From outside the UK: +44 191 218 7777
What happens after the UK leaves the EU?
If you have lived in Norway for three years, you could be eligible to apply for permanent right of residence. This will mean that you can receive state medical care in the same way that Norwegian citizens do.
Residence permits are dispensed for study, family and work reasons, and under the au pair scheme.
You can find out more on the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration website [link: https://www.udi.no/en/].