Facts about Sweden’s healthcare system

Sweden’s healthcare system is unique. In fact, no two country’s health care systems will ever be identical. However, comparative analyses reveal the effectiveness  of Sweden’s healthcare system — as well as the proficiency of Swedish healthcare professionals in delivering high quality, sustainable care. The latest independent report reinforces this, which is from 2013 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).*

Background to the Sweden healthcare system.

The country of Sweden has a long tradition of delivering high quality, economically viable healthcare. For many years Sweden’s health care system has regularly ranked at or near the top of most comparative analyses of various international health care systems. For instance, the Swedish health care system ranked #2 overall in a study published in 2004 by an independent Canadian research institute, the Conference Board of Canada. According to their report

  • Sweden has a larger share of elderly people than most OECD countries: 5.2% are over 80, compared to the average of 4.2%
  • Spending on elderly care is 3.6% of GDP, compared to an OECD average of 1.7%
  • Sweden has the highest number of elderly care workers per capita
  • Seven out of ten dependent elderly people receive care in their homes
  • The quality of health care in Sweden is generally good, for example:
    • rates of avoidable hospitalisation for chronic conditions such as asthma (22.2 per 100 000 population) are among the lowest in the OECD (average 45.8)
    • 90% of people using primary care in Sweden said they were treated with respect and consideration by staff
    • Sweden’s quality registers, which track the quality of care that patients receive and outcomes for several conditions, are among the most developed across the OECD

The report also pinpoints challenges ahead for Sweden health care system. According to the report, an ageing population with growing chronic conditions and requiring more complex health services are testing Sweden’s ability to continue delivering high-quality care.

”The Swedish health care system is often considered a model for other countries to emulate, both because of its excellent outcomes compared to OECD countries and several well-developed strategies to assure and improve the quality of its health care…Sweden’s generous health care system performs well on most quality indicators.”

Health policy in Sweden is a national-level responsibility

Over the past 20 years Sweden has an average reinvestment of some 9.2% of its GDP annually on healthcare. However, around 70 percent of healthcare services are funded through local government taxes. In fact, Sweden’s health care system is highly decentralized. Its 21 county councils are responsible for hospitals and GPs, while its 290 municipalities provide municipal care. In Sweden, the county councils and municipalities are also the main providers of healthcare, with only about 10% of all health services delivered by private providers.

Sweden’s healthcare system: the facts

Click the +/- symbols beside each question listed below to find information. Do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail: nils.persson@swedishhealthcare.se or telephone: +46 705 127 816 for additional queries.


Healthcare coverage in Sweden i universal


Services included are not specified. Rather, three main principles apply to health services: equal access, care based on need, and cost effectiveness.

No charge for dental services for children and adolescents up to age 19 years. For adults, some of the more expensive treatments are covered.

Free choice of provider. Referral is required in some cases, particularly if the patient chooses a provider outside of his/her own county council.


Out-of-pocket fee for physician visits (including primary care) and for most visits to other providers.

Each county council sets its own fees, but there is a uniform national ceiling on the total amount that a patient pays during a 12-month period (out-of-pocket ceiling).

Patients pay part of pharmaceutical costs. An out-of-pocket ceiling also applies to pharmaceutical costs.

Health services for children and adolescents are free of charge.


A combination of local and regional taxes, State subsidies and private insurance manage healthcare financing in Sweden. Here is an overview of how it works:

Local/regional taxes
Most of the public financing comes from county council taxes (proportional income tax). This accounts for just over 70% of the healthcare costs. Health services for the elderly and disabled provided at home or in special residential settings are financed mainly by municipal (local) taxes.

State subsidies
National subsidies cover approximately 20% of the costs.

Private insurance

Private insurance covers less than 1% of the population and accounts for approximately 2 thousandths of total financing. Private insurance is not tax deductible.

Private insurance
Private insurance covers less than 1% of the population and accounts for approximately 2 thousandths of total financing. Private insurance is not tax deductible.


A combination of physicians and hospitals and public input organize care in Sweden. Here’s how it works:
Primary care physicians
Most primary care physicians are employees of the county councils. Some primary care physicians work privately under contract with the county councils.

The are mainly public hospitals that are operated by the county councils. A few private hospitals that generally have contracts with the county councils. Hospital-based ambulatory care physicians are hospital employees.

Public input
Generally, the county councils and municipalities both finance and provide health services. They are responsible for planning and distributing resources. Private providers deliver approximately 10% of health services, 25% in primary care. Increasingly, the national government has presented projectmes and plans for various segments of healthcare. The National Board of Health and Welfare has supervisory responsibilities for personnel and services.


Here is a brief overview:

  • Mainly, global budgets (county councils and municipalities) are used to control total costs. Periodically, agreements have been established between the State and the county councils/municipalities to limit cost increases, taxes, etc.
  • The Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care, known internationally by its Swedish acronym, SBU, promotes efficient utilisation of resources through assessing new and establish health technologies.

* Different countries collect data for specific domestic purposes. OECD is working toward identifying relevant and reliable indicators to assess the performance of different health care systems. We believe that the OECD figures are the best currently available.

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