Is Healthcare Really Free In Norway? (All Cost Of Healthcare In Norway Explained)

Many people are under the impression that all healthcare is completely free in all of Norway, and I see this “fact” pretty often when I browse the internet. But is there any truth to this claim? Let’s take a closer look at the cost of the healthcare in Norway.

The healthcare in Norway is not free, but it is heavily subsidized, so it is affordable for regular people. You co-pay for all doctor appointments until you hit a certain payment threshhold. Once you spend over 2921 NOK (2022 figures) you won’t have to pay any more until the next year.

Rikshospitalet in Oslo
Rikshospitalet is a hospital in Oslo. Photo by J. P. Fagerback.

Up until you hit the payment threshold, called a frikort (free card), you pay for all medications and medical appointments from your own money. You begin with a blank slate on January 1st, and then you have to pay for everything. This goes on until you hit the almost 3000 NOK threshold (which is around $330), and then you won’t have to pay anything more until the end of the year.

PS. I want you to keep in mind that this article is about the Norwegian healthcare system itself, so it is focused on what it is like for someone who live in Norway. There might be some differences for tourists who visit Norway.

How much does it cost to go to the doctor (GP) in Norway?

All public healthcare is heavily subsidized, so you only pay a small co-payment for each appointment. These are set by the government, and are far below the actual cost of the medical appointment.

In 2022, the co-payment you have to pay for a regular doctor’s appointment (GP) is 160 NOK for a visit during regular business hours, and 280 NOK for a visit during evening, night or the weekend. If the doctor is specialized in general healthcare, the price increases to 212 / 332 NOK.

In other words, a visit to the doctor won’t ruin you financially. These rates are for pretty much all doctors in Norway, from your personal public doctor (fastlege) to doctors you need to see for special tests. Even the ER doctors charge this same co-payment. Specialized doctors can have a slightly higher fee of 375 NOK for a visit.

You also have to pay for additional tests and sometimes certain equipment, but this is also subsidized, so you don’t need to worry. I have never experienced having to pay more than 500 NOK for a single visit to the doctor.

How much does it cost to ride an ambulance or use the hospital in Norway?

Ambulances and admittance to hospitals can financially ruin you in many different countries around the world, so what’s the take on this in Norway?

Both riding the ambulance and staying at the hospital is completely free in Norway. You will never be billed a single crown for calling an ambulance or for staying in a hospital bed. Even the food is free during your hospital stay.

The only exception is that if you stay at the hospital for less than one day. In these cases, you need to pay the co-payment as mention above, since the hospital stay will be regarded as a doctor’s appointment instead of a hospital stay.

So if you feel like you are in danger, don’t be afraid to call for an ambulance by calling the medical emergency number 113.

Hospital stays are free in Norway
Hospital stays are free in Norway. Photo published with permission.

How much does it cost to have a baby in Norway?

Having a baby can require a lot of doctor’s appointments to make sure both the mother and the baby is safe and sound, and the child birth itself requires several midwives and can occasionally also require assistance from doctors, anesthetists, or even surgeons. So who pays for all of this in Norway?

The government pays for any medical cost for having a baby in Norway after you are pregnant, so you do not need to pay for any of the doctor’s visits during pregnancy or after the baby has been born. The child birth itself is also completely free.

This means that you won’t have to worry about any medical bills from having a child, even if there are complications during the pregnancy or birth.

Pregnant woman
Giving birth to a child is free in Norway. Photo published with permission.

Healthcare costs for babies and children

Babies and children have completely free healthcare in Norway, with some exceptions. As a general rule of thumb, you won’t have to pay anything for going to the doctor with a children under the age of 16, and can do this as many times as you want without paying.

There are a few specialized things that might cost some money. One example that come to mind from personal experience is to get your eyes checked by an eye doctor, which we had to pay a co-payment even for a young child. Luckily these are also subsidized, so the cost is only around 250 NOK.

Why does Norway have a frikort instead of just having completely free healthcare?

Many foreigners find it weird that Norway has this system where everyone has to pay a certain amount of money up until this threshold of around 3000 NOK, so what’s the reason behind this?

Contrary to popular belief, this is not to finance the healthcare (which is done by tax money and the Oil Fund), but instead to create a small barrier to prevent people from going to the doctor too often. This small barrier to entry was a good method to prevent people from going to the doctor with issues that didn’t really need medical treatment, and was successful in reducing the number on unnecessary appointments.

It’s worth noting that people who cannot afford to pay the co-payment can usually get it covered by the government if they apply for it. No one will be denied medical help in Norway.

Medications also count towards the frikort, so if you need regular medications, the frikort tend to hit the 3000 NOK mark pretty quickly.

Do Norwegian people need health insurance?

Since the hospital is completely free in Norway, and there are great systems in place to take care of you if you get permanently disabled, most Norwegians don’t really need health insurance. At least not in the same was as people in the United States need it.

There is a type of Norwegian health insurance, but this does not affect the treatment or help you get from medical services. Instead these health insurances can pay you additional money if you become unable to work due to an injury or disease.

Some Norwegians have this type of health insurance, but it’s far from something that everyone has or even cares about getting.

Norwegian ambulance
Norwegian ambulance. Photo by Dickelbers / CC BY-SA 4.0.

You can pay for private healthcare in Norway if you want to

Most public healthcare in Norway is considered very good, but you usually also have the option to pay for private healthcare if you want to. This can let you skip queues that can be long at times, or even get premium treatment that is simply not available to the public healthcare system in Norway.

If you choose to go the route of paying for a private doctor’s appointment, you will have to expect to pay a lot more than a public doctor’s appointment. For example, a GP appointment at Aleris is 1130 NOK, while an appointment with a neurologist will cost 4350 NOK.

This is easily 5 – 15 times as expensive as choosing the public option, so while it’s an option, you should keep in mind that it can be pretty costly. These same appointments in the public healthcare system would cost 212 NOK for the GP and 375 NOK for the neurologist.

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