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HEALTH INSURANCE

Government loses sick pay vote by slim margin

The Swedish government suffered another setback in the Riksdag on Friday, when the Sweden Democrats voted with the centre-left opposition to force through its proposal by a single vote.

Government loses sick pay vote by slim margin

“This is a very muddled decision made by the Riksdag, and the government will have to continue to work on the matter,” said Gunnar Axén, Moderate MP and chairman of the Riksdag committee on social insurance, to news agency TT.

The centre-left opposition’s proposal aims to fix the most “acute shortcomings” of the 2008 health insurance reforms implemented by the government.

The reforms were meant to address the problem of a spiralling sick leave rate among Sweden’s generally healthy population, but since they came into effect they have been the subject of near constant criticism.

A change to the rules regulating sickness benefits resulted in a large number of people moving into work or training programmes and placed a limit on the time people could be off work on sick leave.

People who had been on state sick benefits for more than 180 days were duly forced to either apply for work or training, or to seek lower sick benefits from Sweden’s social insurance agency (Forsäkringskassan).

In April, the Swedish government proposed a number of changes to its reforms, admitting its current efforts had left some people in a jam.

But the opposition were not satisfied with the proposed changes.

They argue in their new proposal that people who have or have had time limited sickness compensation (sjukersättning) and who lack an income should be allowed to re-enter the insurance scheme so they can receive benefits in line with the level they had previously.

In addition, they wanted to put a stop to having people booted out of the insurance system altogether, although people who are receiving benefits should still have the right to partake in employment-reintroduction programmes without losing their benefits.

The centre-left also wanted to have the assessments of people’s ability to work, which take place after 180 days, to be carried out in a way similar to the methods used prior to changes implemented in 2008.

However, according to Axén, the opposition’s proposals have not been properly researched. Speaking to the MPs, he stressed that not enough authorities had been asked to offer their counsel.

He also called the preparation of the proposal “deficient, if not non-existent” and said it had “made a mockery of the citizens”.

But the Riksdag went with the centre-left opposition’s line, with 140 votes in favour to 139 votes against.

Following the Riksdag’s decision, many government agencies and other organisations affected by the result of the vote have declared themselves to be dissatisfied with the new proposal drafted by the opposition.

Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) had both praise and blame for the changes, whereas the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen – LO) and the Swedish Rheumatism Association (Svenska Reumatikerförbundet) said that it was “a patchwork job” and that a complete overhaul is needed to change the system for the better.

The changes in the centre-left’s proposal are suggested to come into effect on January 1st 2012, together with the changes outlined by the government in April.

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HEALTH INSURANCE

The essential insurance many foreigners in Sweden forget to sign up for

When moving to Sweden, a lot of the paperwork is mercifully simpler than in many places – at least once you arrive. But one crucial insurance can be easily missed, and can end up costing a lot if you fail to apply.

The essential insurance many foreigners in Sweden forget to sign up for
Making sure you sign up for this important insurance could save you thousands of kronor. Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) is responsible for providing a range of benefits and allowances, including sick and disability pay, child allowance, and many other forms of social security. 

In order to receive these benefits, you need to be insured in Sweden. You don’t pay anything for this insurance, but you do need to actively apply to be completely covered.

Some benefits are linked to your employment. Work-based benefits like sick pay, parental benefit, and injury compensation are available to people who work in Sweden – employees, self-employed people, and contractors are all insured for these.

Other benefits are available to everyone legally resident in Sweden, regardless of whether you’re working, but only if you sign up with Försäkringskassan.

This includes child allowance, parental benefit at the basic level, income support for the elderly, and several other benefits. 


You need to register with Försäkringskassan to be eligible for dental care subsidies in Sweden. Photo: Simon Paulin/SvD/TT

One important one is dental care.

You will be eligible to receive medical care in Sweden on the same terms as Swedish citizens as soon as you are registered with the Tax Agency and have a personal identity number, personnummer (non-EU citizens should arrange insurance to cover them before this point).

But for dental care, you need to register with Försäkringskassan in order to be eligible for Sweden’s dental subsidies.

Dental care is free of charge for people under the age of 23. After this age you are required to pay, but are entitled to an annual subsidy depending on your age, as well as high cost protection which means you never pay above a certain amount for dental care in a given year.

So how do you apply?

If you move to Sweden together with a child (aged under 16), the agency should contact you once you have registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and received your personal identity number. 

But for people moving here without children, you need to actively register with the agency – simply having your personnummer is not enough. It is important to do this as soon as possible after the move. Even if none of the benefits are relevant at the time when you move, it’s a key step just in case something unexpected happens.

One reason for that is that registration is not automatic. In fact, the process can take several months, and you are not insured during the waiting time. 


Registration is not automatic, and can take several months. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/TT

Once you have got either a residence permit or have registered with the Tax Agency, you can register either online at forsakringskassan.se, if you have Swedish BankID, or by sending off a form, which you can find in English here. You will need to provide copies of your permit or, if moving from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, proof that you are no longer covered by social insurance in that country. 

If you are not able to be added to the population register, for example if you cannot prove that your stay will be over a year, you should still apply either online or via the same form, and the agency will check if there are any forms of compensation you may still be eligible for.

When you register with Försäkringskassan, you can also apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at the same time. The benefit of this is that when you travel within the EU, you will be eligible for the same healthcare at the same prices as local residents. 

If you become eligible for a benefit, for example if you need long-term sickness compensation or are expecting a child, you will need to let the agency know by either filling out a form or using the My Pages section of the website to apply for that compensation.

The exception is the dental subsidy, which you do not need to apply for because everyone is eligible. All you need to do is tell your dentist that you are registered with Försäkringskassan and would like to use your subsidy towards your payment.

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