There are 2 appointments I detest making. I have never liked visiting the dentist nor the doctor. In fact, as a teenager, I was known to call the office the morning of said appointment and cancel it. Unfortunately, they are necessary evils to keeping healthy.
After several awful experiences with healthcare in Gabon, I was thrilled to be able to return to detesting appointments instead of fearing them.
Norway has a public health system operated by the government and funded through public tax. The theory behind the system is that every resident of Norway has access to the same standard of healthcare regardless of their socio-economic status. As a Canadian, this system sounds very familiar but there are a few differences.
As soon as our visas were secured and we were legal residents of Norway, we filled out paperwork at the Centre for Foreign Workers to receive a personal number. This number is used for several things but it's the starting process to acquiring healthcare. Every legal resident, expat or not, is privy to the national Norwegian healthcare scheme. About a week after filing the paperwork, both Joe and I received our personal number in the mail with directions to secure a family doctor.
Using the public healthcare website, Helfo, I searched the current doctors in our region. Their name, sex, clinic, number of current patients & number of open spots are visible in order to assist you in your choice. Perhaps you have a personal recommendation in which you can search for that specific doctor or clinic or you choose depending on your priorities. Having a clinic that was close to home was important to us so that dictated our choice. Once our doctor was chosen, I phoned the Helfo number and requested the doctor that I had decided on. If I hadn't researched ahead of time, they would have assigned me to one. Within one week we had confirmation that our family doctor was set. Should you be unhappy with your choice, you are able to switch your family doctor twice per year.
Unlike Canada, visiting your doctor is not 'free.' Depending on your visit, you'll be charged a subsidized fee which can be paid via electronic machine in the clinic. (If you don't pay at the clinic, a bill is mailed to you and includes an extra administration fee.) My first regular appointment cost 135 nok ($24 CAD.) Every year, a cap is set for healthcare costs. This year, once you have paid 2040 nok ($370 CAD) in fees, you will be given an exemption card that states you are no longer required to pay.
Prescriptions are also subsidized by the healthcare system. The actual cost of medicine is subsidized but it is also capped at 500 nok ($90 CAD) meaning that the most you can pay for any trip to the pharmacy for prescribed medication is limited. It is my understanding that prescription fees will also contribute to the 2040 nok cap.
In order to see a specialist one must be referred from their family physician and wait times can be long. (Again, something Canadians are familiar with.) Everyone has the option to opt out of the national scheme, take out private insurance and get their healthcare where they choose should they be unhappy with what they have been offered. Stavanger has a couple of private clinics that anyone can visit but of course, there's no guarantee as to the cost or the reimbursement from your private coverage. Again, like in Canada, dental and eye care is not covered under the national scheme and thus paid out of pocket or put through separate insurance.
The entire system is strictly regulated and while the process and procedures can certainly be frustrating, residents of Norway do have a very high level of healthcare (ranked 11th in the world by the World Heath Organisation in 2000. In case you are interested, France ranked 1st, UK 18th, Canada 30th, US 38th, Gabon 139th.)
Joe and I's limited experience with the system has so far been positive. Our doctors are professional, we're able to get appointments when we need them and the standard of care has been good.
Note: The procedures for acquiring access to the National Healthcare Scheme maybe different depending on your home country.
UDI - Immigration website
Helfo- Homepage for the National Healthcare Program (there is a section in English if you click on the tab in the upper right corner.)
MinFastlege - search for available physicians in your area
Helfo Portal - login to change your physician
Helfo Contact Number - 850 59 500