A lot of people say that in Norway you get ‘free health care’ but that is only true if you are unhealthy. There is a threshold where unhealthy  pass into the ‘free’ zone. However, if you are healthy you must pay.

When I say a ‘healthy’ person, I mean someone who only needs to see a doctor no more than 13 times a year. In the last year I only went to the doctors once for a regular smear test so I am considered ‘healthy’. (A side note: While in Australia I would get a general yearly check-up just for good measure. This is considered a waste in Norway, especially by doctors, and especially if you are considered ‘healthy’.) Any healthy person must pay up to NOK1880 as of 2011, (or US$342), a year to see the doctor before the ‘free’ kicks in.  A regular consultation for 15 minutes is priced at NOK136 in Norway 2011. Hence, 13 normal consultations a year.

This unfortunately does not cover any extra costs such as disinfectants, bandages, or needles for blood samples, for example. These certainly get added to your bill. When I had the smear I paid for the consultation as well as the disposables, items used and the test.

Women get ‘free’ care when they are pregnant because they are considered at high risk health and need to see a doctor at least 8 times which includes equipment, disposables and tests, plus the hospital costs for the labour and birth.

Children do not get completely ‘free’ health care either. They get free regular consultations but any equipment or disposables such as bandages require payment. For example: The other week Lil’ Red, my two year old son, and I were in my work’s costume room. He pulled out a box and an unframed mirror fell onto his nose. Blood everywhere, so off to the medical centre we went to get stitches. The consultation was free but we had to pay for the equipment and disposables such as bandages, tape, glue, thread, disinfectant etc. If this accident happened while Lil’ Red was in school, the extra costs are waved as the government pays for own ‘institutional’ expenses.  (I’m presuming  work should cover medical costs too, including disposables etc, if you get injured on the job.)

Children do, however, get free dental up until they leave high school. Adults don’t get free dental. The public dental service isn’t free, but charges a fraction of the price of private surgeries. Most people go private as the waiting lists for public are painful.

Critical emergencies are an exception to the rule.  Ambulance rides are covered, and helicopers, etc.

So there is a misconception of ‘free’ health care for all. It is ‘free’ for people who surpass the ‘unhealthy’ payment threshold, but for those who are healthy, you will have to continue to pay until you become a pensioner or unhealthy. But maybe this is why Norway doesn’t call their national medical scheme ‘health CARE’. They call it Health INSURANCE. Just like any insurance, an excess needs to be paid before the insurance company will pitch in. Everyone over 18 is required to subscribe to this insurance through their tax payments. It is compulsory. Another obscurity on ‘free’.  ‘Free’ has to come from somewhere, and when it comes from the government, we all know where it really comes from.

So for a healthy person, ‘free’ health care is only an insurance in case you become unhealthy.

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