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The Swedish health care system is mainly government-funded and decentralized, although private health care also exists. The health care system in Sweden is financed primarily through taxes levied by county councils and municipalities.
Sweden's health care system is organized and managed on three levels: national, regional and local. At the national level, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs establishes principles and guidelines for care and sets the political agenda for health and medical care. The ministry along with other government bodies supervises activities at the lower levels, allocates grants and periodically evaluates services to ensure correspondence to national goals.
At the regional level, responsibility for financing and providing health care is decentralized to the county councils. A county council is a political body whose representatives are elected by the public every four years on the same day as the national general election. The executive board or hospital board of a county council exercises authority over hospital structure and management, and ensures efficient health care delivery. County councils also regulate prices and level of service offered by private providers. Private providers are required to enter into a contract with the county councils. Patients are not reimbursed for services from private providers who do not have an agreement with the county councils. According to the Swedish health and medical care policy, every county council must provide residents with good-quality health services and medical care and work toward promoting good health in the entire population.
At the local level, municipalities are responsible for maintaining the immediate environment of citizens such as water supply and social welfare services. Recently, post discharge care for the disabled and elderly, and long term care for psychiatric patients was decentralized to the local municipalities.
Sweden is divided into 20 county councils. Around 90 percent of the Swedish county councils’ work involves health care but they are also involved in other areas, such as culture and infrastructure. The population in these 21 areas ranges from 60,000 to 1,900,000. The county councils have considerable leeway in deciding how care should be planned and delivered. This explains the wide regional variations.
It is informally divided into 7 sections: "Close-to-home care" (primary care clinics, maternity care clinics, out-patient psychiatric clinics, etc.), emergency care, elective care, in-patient care, out-patient care, specialist care, and dental care.
Costs for health and medical care amount to approximately 9 percent of Sweden’s gross domestic product (GDP), a figure that has remained fairly stable since the early 1980s. Seventy-one percent of health care is funded through local taxation, and county councils have the right to collect income tax. The state finances the bulk of health care costs, with the patient paying a small nominal fee for examination. The state pays for approximately 97% of medical costs.
When a physician declares a patient to be ill for whatever reason (by signing a certificate of illness/unfitness), the patient is paid a percentage of their normal daily wage from the second day. For the first 14 days, the employer is required to pay this wage, and after that the state pays the wage until the patient is declared fit.
Urgent cases are always prioritized and emergency cases are treated immediately. In urgent cases, the national guarantee of care states that a patient should be able to get an appointment with a primary care physician within 3 days of contacting the clinic.
Prescription medicine costs per year are not free but are limited for the patient. When 1,800 SEK (249 USD) have been paid to the pharmacy, the medicines are paid by the government for the rest of the year. All pharmacies are network-connected so medicines can be obtained from any pharmacy in the country. The prescription is sent through internet to the pharmacy network, which also stores information on previous medications obtained and relevant medical history of the person, at which point one will only need to produce identification to acquire the medication.
A limit on health-care fees per year exists; 150-300 SEK for each visit to a doctor, regardless if they are a private doctor or work at a local health-care center or a hospital. When visiting a hospital, the entrance fee covers all specialist visits the doctor deems unnecessary, like x-ray, rheumatism specialist, heart surgery operations and so on. The same fee is levied for ambulance services. After 1100 SEK have been paid, health-care for the rest of the year will be provided free of charge.
Dental care is not included in the general health care system, but is partly subsidized by the government. Dental care is free for youths up to 18 years of age.
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