An Introduction to the Healthcare System in Finland

Finland is renowned for its high-quality healthcare system, which is ranked among the best in the world. With a strong emphasis on primary healthcare and an efficient public healthcare system, Finland offers comprehensive medical services to residents and expatriates alike. This guide provides an overview of the Finnish healthcare system, outlining key considerations, steps, and useful tips for navigating medical services in this Nordic country.

Understanding the Healthcare System in Finland

The Finnish healthcare system is primarily funded through taxation and is divided into public and private sectors. The public sector is the backbone of healthcare in Finland, providing a wide range of health services to all residents. The private sector complements the public system, offering additional services and shorter waiting times for certain procedures.

Key Components of the System

  • Primary Healthcare: Provided by municipal health centers, primary healthcare includes general medical care, maternity and child health services, and dental care.
  • Specialized Medical Care: Offered by public hospitals, specialized medical care requires a referral from a primary healthcare provider.
  • Occupational Healthcare: Employers in Finland are legally required to provide occupational healthcare services to their employees, covering preventive care and treatment for work-related health issues.
  • Private Healthcare: While the public system covers most healthcare needs, some individuals opt for private insurance to access private clinics and hospitals, often to reduce waiting times for non-urgent procedures.

Accessing Healthcare as an Expat

Expatriates in Finland are entitled to access public healthcare services under the same conditions as Finnish citizens, provided they are registered residents and covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. Here’s what expats need to know:

1. Registering with the Local Municipality

Upon moving to Finland, expats should register with the local municipality (kunta) to access public healthcare services. This registration process also involves obtaining a Finnish personal identity code.

2. National Health Insurance (NHI)

Expats working in Finland contribute to the NHI through their taxes, which entitles them to various health services at reduced costs. Those not employed may need to apply for NHI coverage through Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

3. European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

EU/EEA citizens should obtain an EHIC from their home country before moving to Finland. This card provides access to necessary healthcare services during a temporary stay.

4. Choosing a Health Center

Registered residents can choose their primary healthcare center, usually the one closest to their home or workplace. For specialized care, a referral from a primary care physician is required.

5. Private Health Insurance

While not mandatory, some expats opt for private health insurance for added coverage and quicker access to certain services.

Costs and Reimbursements

Public healthcare services in Finland are not entirely free but are heavily subsidized. Patients can expect to pay nominal fees for visits to health centers, hospitals, and dental care. Prescription medications are also subsidized and available at pharmacies upon presenting a doctor’s prescription.

Tips for Navigating the Finnish Healthcare System

  • Language Barrier: While many healthcare professionals in Finland speak English, it’s helpful to learn some basic Finnish or Swedish, especially for navigating the healthcare system and understanding prescriptions.
  • Making Appointments: Appointments at public healthcare centers can be made by phone or, increasingly, through online portals.
  • Emergency Services: In case of an emergency, dial 112. Emergency care is available to everyone, regardless of their insurance status.

Further Resources

  • Kela: The official website of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland provides comprehensive information on health insurance and social security benefits.
  • THL: The National Institute for Health and Welfare offers insights into health policies, research, and public health data in Finland.


Finland’s healthcare system is characterized by its efficiency, quality, and accessibility. For expatriates, understanding how to access and utilize these services is key to a smooth transition to life in Finland. By registering with the local authorities, understanding the coverage provided by the National Health Insurance, and familiarizing oneself with the healthcare processes, expats can ensure they receive the care they need while enjoying all that Finland has to offer.

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