A considerable percentage of Norway's annual budget is spent on the health and welfare system. In spite of the frequent complaints about the quality and long waiting lists, Norwegians still rely on their public health system to get treated.
Doctors in Norway
Anyone who is registered with the Norwegian National Population Registry is automatically assigned a physician. Patients can also choose their GP (general practitioner) from a government list which contains all doctors who practise in a given municipality. You are allowed to change your GP only twice per year so try to be prudent when choosing one.
Doctors appointments are not completely free of charge in Norway. The government covers part of the medical expenses but patients still have to pay a fee when consulting a doctor. However, the government also sets a maximum of medical expenses which, if exceeded, entitles the patient to apply for an exemption card. At this point, the patient gains the right to free treatment for the rest of the year. It's also possible to have medical expenses partially reimbursed.
Medical centres normally open from 8.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. You need to make an appointment in order to receive a consultation, but it is normally possible to get an appointment the same day you call. If you arrive late, you will not only miss your consultation but will also have to pay the regular fee.
Hospitals in Norway
Beside carrying out research and training activities, Norwegian hospitals provide their patients with both primary and specialized treatment. Hospital accommodation is free of charge and women don't have to pay a single krone during their pregnancy: scans and pregnancy routine analysis are completely free.
If you want to see a specialist you need to have your GP request the consultation first. If the specialist recommends hospitalization you will be allowed to choose the hospital in which you want to be treated.
Long waiting times are certainly one of the major drawbacks of the Norwegian national health care system. Almost a quarter of Norwegian patients claims to have waited up to three months before being admitted to a public hospital. This is why many of them choose private health care or go abroad to get quicker treatment.
Most Norwegian dentists have private practises and advertise themselves in the Norwegian Yellow Pages.
Dental care is free of charge for anyone up to 18 years of age. Children register with the Norwegian dental care system at the age of three. They will be called into the municipality dentist office and asked to register there. You are informed of your dental appointments via post. If you cannot make an appointment, you need to cancel/reschedule as soon as possible, because if you wait too long, your child will forfeit his place in the dental care system.