Your guide to health insurance in Iceland
Relocating to Iceland? The second-largest island in Europe is located South of the Arctic Circle. Despite its location, Iceland’s climate is predominantly temperate in nature. Iceland is home to one of the best healthcare systems in the world. That’s why you should get to know its healthcare system before you move. In this Pacific Prime country guide, you’ll find information on how to access the local healthcare system and find the best health insurance options there.
Planning to visit nearby countries? Check out our health insurance guides for all European countries.
Here, the stellar healthcare system is one of the most common reasons people move to Iceland. There is a high doctor-to-patients ratio, averaging 3-4 doctors per 1000 patients. Administrated by Iceland’s own Ministry of Welfare, the government spends a considerable amount of money on healthcare costs.
Iceland’s universal healthcare system is heavily funded through taxation. 85% of all healthcare services are paid for by taxes, whereas only 15% are service fees paid out of the patient’s pocket. All employers must pay taxes based on a percentage of wages to the State Treasury for every employee working for them.
7 local healthcare regions
The Icelandic healthcare system is a decentralized structure divided into 7 local healthcare regions. Though it can be difficult to find a physician in rural areas, you’ll find that the medical facilities across all regions tend to be of similar high-quality. Of course, disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, and the disabled receive discounts on personal health expenses.
All regions have health centres called heilsugaeslutstod. You may notice that some centers are fully-staffed, while others are more minimalist with only a nurse, a midwife, and a visiting doctor. Rest assured, however, that a wide range of specialists, such as opticians and gynecologists, regularly visit these centers. On top of that, there is a doctor on-call 24 hours a day in each region.
Healthcare providers in Iceland fall into 4 categories:
- Healthcare Clinics
- Health Institutions
- University Hospitals
- Teaching Hospitals
To partake in the Icelandic healthcare system, you should first register with your local doctor. After that, no referral is needed from your general physician to access specialist care. To put it simply, you can quickly access specialist care should the need arises. Note that hospital visits do need a GP referral. In general, inpatient treatment is free of charge. On the other hand, payments are required for treatments at the health centers and hospital outpatient wards.
Keep in mind that there are no private hospitals and almost no private health insurance in Iceland. In fact, there are only two hospitals here: National University Hospital of Iceland and Akureyri Hospital. Nonetheless, there are private clinics and certain medical facilities here.
Medication is incredibly expensive here. All prescriptions must be paid for in Iceland, though the state healthcare system may cover up to 75% of the cost for certain patients. However, this usually excludes the costs of painkillers and antibiotics. Chemists or pharmacies are known as apoteks in Iceland. There is at least one in every town.
Most people who are staying in Iceland long-term are entitled to its universal healthcare system. Having said that, you also have the option to purchase private international health insurance, particularly if you’re only staying for a short time.
How do you access Iceland’s healthcare system?
Everyone who is staying in Iceland for more than 6 months is eligible for state-funded healthcare here. In other words, you’ll be covered for the same medical treatment as an Iceland native.
Here is a non-exclusive list of what the universal healthcare system covers:
- Mental health treatment
- Maternity care
- Long-term care
- Most other medical needs
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders: `
Do you have an EHIC? All EHIC holders have 6 months of medical coverage upon their arrival in Iceland. Then, make sure you are registered with the National Insurance Office before the EHIC grace period runs out. This way, you’d be covered by Iceland’s national healthcare system.
Here is a list of what you need to prove that you’ve lived here for over 6 months:
- Copies of your passport
- Work/stay permits
- Proof of residence
If you’re a Nordic citizen or from Scandinavia, a passport is all you need to enjoy the healthcare system here.
You need to have lived here for at least 6 months before you can register with the National Insurance Office. Alternatively, those who are staying in Iceland for a short time are also exempted from the universal healthcare coverage. In other words, securing a private health insurance plan is your best option.
All healthcare costs must be paid in full if you have no entitlement to healthcare in Iceland and no insurance. This is the case even when you have a travel insurance plan. Here, most medical costs need to be paid upfront and filed for claims later. For instance, a single consultation can cost up to 10,000 kr.
Private health insurance
Whether you are entitled to Iceland’s state healthcare system or simply prefer an alternative, you should secure an international private health insurance plan. The healthcare system in Iceland is of high-quality and easily-accessible, but only if you live in the city.
We would also recommend an insurance plan that covers your repatriation costs. If you are injured, you may want to receive the best care for your condition outside of the country. In most cases, the cost to transfer you back home can be incredibly steep!
Pacific Prime has over two decades of experience as brokers in the insurance industry. We are committed to finding the perfect health insurance plan to suit your budget and needs. Most importantly, our highly-trained experts provide free quotations, leverage our close partnerships with all major insurers, and have an extensive portfolio that consists of all the best plans. Contact us today so we can help!