Better late than never? I wrote this blog right after we moved and somehow time got away. Read on for an exciting installment involving…dun dun dun…Socialized Medicine!!!
One common refrain I remember growing up in the United States was the idea that socialized health care, either whole or partial, resulted in lax care and standards. I’ve experienced all levels of the US healthcare system: poor kid with medical coupons, railroad insurance, federal employee insurance, and the penultimate: “The Microsoft Cadillac Plan”. My experience in the UK was interesting. I always got the urgently needed care; waited long times for non-essentials; and was sometimes lucky to get an amazing doctor. Only once was I angry about my treatment and that was quickly rectified, thanks to our supplemental insurance. Needless to say, I went to the doctor today expecting something similar to the UK; after all, this is “socialized medicine” *cue dramatic music*.
This week has been horrible. I’ve been sick, the boy has been sick, the husband is sick; it has been yuck. Finally, despite not yet having personal numbers, we decided we had to see a doctor. Our relocation liaison from Nordic provided us with an office 3 blocks away and gave us the open hours for walk-ins as well as the price we would pay (SEK 1435 or about $169— each). Yeowch! That’s a lot of money. Thankfully, the company my husband works for will reimburse this cost up until we get a personal number.
When we arrived, I promptly queued (lined up for my US fellows) to ask if they needed any information. My hubby was a bit more on top of it and wandered the room; quickly finding the ubiquitous Swedish “take a number” stand. He came back with numbers 18, 19, and 20. They were onto number 4… We got back into the queue and notified the receptionist about our status (new and without personal numbers). She asked if we had US insurance. *Tip for Travelers* Get travel insurance!!! We explained the reimbursement situation and she looked relieved.
Once that was sorted, she explained that as soon as we had our numbers, we should come again and register. At that point, all of our visits would be SEK 100 (about $12) and our son’s would be free until the age of 6. After that, she pointed us to the children’s area so we could relax while the small one played. They had a pitcher of cold water and an espresso machine for all to use. It was bright, clean, and everyone working was in a good mood.
Ahh! You may be wondering what type of personal data they wanted on us. They requested our names, dates of birth, and a phone number so the doctor could call with the results. That’s it. No identification, no insurance card, no address, just the basics. It was easy and that was helpful with two sick adults and a sick, hyper toddler…
We ended up waiting a LONG time. If you come as a walk-in and don’t have an appointment, we were told the wait is shorter after lunch. Since we got there just as walk-in hours began, there was an immediate disadvantage. Overall, we waited 2 hours. During that time, the hubby went and bought snacks, and we had lots of free water and coffee (water for me and the kid, coffee for hubs). Thankfully, another woman and her child sat down and she explained a lot to us. Have I ever mentioned that most Swedes in Göteborg speak phenomenal English? She even flagged down a nurse to get me a baggie so I could get a urine sample from the small one to make sure he didn’t have a urinary tract infection. Very friendly!
The doctor finally came for us. I’ve never seen a doctor like this in the UK. Fit, handsome, friendly; bonus for the fact that he could understand us 😃 I’m not dissing UK doctors; I’m sure there are many who fit this description; I just didn’t have the pleasure of meeting them. 😉
What happened next was the best customer service I’ve ever had from a physician. He worked on each of us in turn, getting a thorough history, and checking us out. He explained that we seemed to have the current flu; but mine had become bronchitis. Just to be safe, he wanted to do lab tests on all of us to ensure it was viral and not bacterial. Since I’ve also had an ongoing low grade fever previously, he wanted more tests just to make sure everything is good. We left his office about 40 minutes later, armed with 3 prescriptions and 3 lab slips. What happened next was mind boggling.
He pointed to a set of chairs just across the main room and said to wait there for the lab tech. Less than 4 minutes later she was taking our blood…10 minutes later the tests were done and we were sent on our way! There was one test that takes longer; they will be calling in 2 days with the results. Insanity. The efficiency here is amazing. Now came the final hurdle: paying the bill…how much would it be with all those extra labs? Wait for it…
Would you believe me if I said there was NO EXTRA COST FOR THE LAB TESTS?? It was included. Just think, this appointment cost us about $165 per person, but once we are assigned a number, that appointment with all those tests will be $12. But wait! The receptionist neglected to mention this gem that I found at the website, Work in Sweden, “…the maximum cost for visits to a doctor in a 12-month period is SEK 1,100.” This is roughly $130.
There was an additional cost for the prescriptions, but that too will change once we get those personal numbers. Similar to the appointment fees, prescription costs are capped at SEK 2,200 every 12 months. That is roughly $260. Can you imagine that? People would never have to forego medication due to cost if we had this system.
Despite the 2 hour wait, I’m still very satisfied with the amazing service we got today and I am so appreciative of the fact that I was able to get excellent care even as a foreigner wandering in to a medical facility for help.
Remember, if you come to Sweden as a tourist, get travel insurance! If you come as an employee, make sure in advance that your employer will reimburse you until you have a personal number. If they won’t, get travel insurance! We had travel insurance our first week here, before the job started. It was $12 for all 3 of us. This is a small but important detail to remember.
Fear not though, even if you don’t, the Swedes won’t make you go bankrupt to see someone. It will hurt the wallet a bit; but one visit won’t costs thousands of dollars and that I think is awesome. See, not all socialized medical care is evil 😉
Until next time…