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Swedes buy insurance to skip long health queues

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08:53 CET+01:00
One in ten Swedes now has private health insurance, often through their employers, with some recipients stating it makes business sense to be seen quickly rather than languish in national health care queues.

More than half a million Swedes now have private health insurance, showed a new review from industry organization Swedish Insurance (Svensk Försäkring). In eight out of ten cases, the person's employer had offered them the private insurance deal.

"It's quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks' time rather than having to wait for a year," privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. "It's terrible that I, as a young person, don't feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me." 

The insurance plan guarantees that she can see a specialist within four working days, and get a time for surgery, if needed, within 15.

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In December, the queues in the Swedish health care system pushed the country down a European ranking of healthcare.

"Why can Albania operate its healthcare services with practically zero waiting times, and Sweden cannot?" the report authors from the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP) organization in Brussels asked, albeit acknowledging modest improvements. "The Swedish queue-shortening project, on which the state has spent approximately €5 billion, has achieved some shortening of waiting times."

Sweden aims to make sure people can see their general practitioner within one week, which the organization said was a modest goal in and of itself.

"The target for maximum wait in Sweden to see your primary care doctor (no more than seven days) is underachieved only by Portugal, where the corresponding figure is 15 days," the report stated.

Health system wait times in Sweden were deemed so lengthy that they pulled Sweden down the European ranking despite the country having technically advanced healthcare at its disposal. 

"The Swedish score for technically excellent healthcare services is, as ever, dragged down by the seemingly never-ending story of access/waiting time problems," the reported noted, underlining that the national efforts to guarantee patient care had not helped to cut the delays significantly. 

In its year-ahead report, industry organization Swedish Insurance said many people now felt they did not know what they could expect from their health care providers. 

"There is a lack of certainty about what the individual can expect from public welfare and which needs have to be taken care of in another manner," the report authors noted.

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