Sweden : Health system review

TitleSweden : Health system review
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsAnell A, Glenngård AH, Merkur S
Secondary AuthorsMossialos E, Busse R, Figueras J, McKee M, Saltman R
Series TitleHealth Care Systems in Transition
Volume14 (5)
Number of Pages159 p.
PublisherWHO Regional Office for Europe
KeywordsDelivery of health Care; Evaluation Studies; Financing, Health; Health care Reform; Health System Plans; Sweden
AbstractLife expectancy in Sweden is high and the country performs well in comparisons related to disease-oriented indicators of health service outcomes and quality of care. The Swedish health system is committed to ensuring the health of all citizens and abides by the principles of human dignity, need and solidarity, and cost–effectiveness. The state is responsible for overall health policy, while the funding and provision of services lies largely with the county councils and regions. The municipalities are responsible for the care of older and disabled people. The majority of primary care centres and almost all hospitals are owned by the county councils. Health care expenditure is mainly tax funded (80%) and is equivalent to 9.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) (2009). Only about 4% of the population has voluntary health insurance (VHI). User charges fund about 17% of health expenditure and are levied on visits to professionals, hospitalization and medicines. The number of acute care hospital beds is below the European Union (EU) average and Sweden allocates more human resources to the health sector than most OECD countries. In the past, the Achilles’ heel of Swedish health care included long waiting times for diagnosis and treatment and, more recently, divergence in quality of care between regions and socioeconomic groups. Addressing long waiting times remains a key policy objective along with improving access to providers. Recent principal health reforms over the past decade relate to: concentrating hospital services; regionalizing health care services, including mergers; improving coordinated care; increasing choice, competition and privatization in primary care; privatization and competition in the pharmacy sector; changing co-payments; and increasing attention to public comparison of quality and efficiency indicators, the value of investments in health care and responsiveness to patients’ needs. Reforms are often introduced on the local level, thus the pattern of reform varies across local government, although mimicking behaviour usually occurs.