Does Denmark Have Free Healthcare

Does Denmark have free healthcare? Everything you need to know about the Danish healthcare system

People across the world look up to the Scandinavian countries for several reasons. The principle of creating a better life for everyone is a core value that each nation holds, especially when it comes to equal public service access. Northern Europe is often included in comparisons with the United States for medical assistance, so does Denmark have free healthcare?

The Danish population has access to high-quality care, and much of the population is in good health. In Copenhagen especially, the infrastructure is geared towards a healthy lifestyle on mental and physical levels.

Many European countries have high standards of healthcare, but few boast such a high quality as Denmark. In this article, we’ll answer all of your questions about the Danish healthcare system.

Does Denmark have universal healthcare?

Denmark has a universal healthcare system that grants all Danish citizens free medical care in their home country.

Legal residents in Denmark from other countries also have access to the same services, as long as they have a CPR number; if you move to Denmark, the yellow card is one of the first admin pieces you’ll need to sort out.

Once you’ve got your yellow card, you’re entitled to free visits with your doctor. You can also receive a free diagnosis if you suspect you’ve got a condition, after which the person assisting can prescribe any drugs you may need or decide if you require hospital care.

Although Denmark has a high quality of life, life isn’t always rosy in this Nordic country. Many have placed a greater emphasis on the importance of positive mental health in recent years, and the Danish healthcare system has begun offering more services to those that need them.

Since the second half of 2021, people aged between 18 and 24 have had access to more free mental health care throughout the country. Psychological treatment is on hand for locals and residents with anxiety and depression ranging from mild to moderate.

Also included in Denmark’s universal healthcare are:

  • Home visits for those who need help with ordinary tasks;
  • Preventative care;
  • Many primary care services.

Does Denmark have a good healthcare system?

We’ll talk about the quality of healthcare in Denmark soon — but first, let’s discuss whether the system works or not.

You might be surprised to learn that the life expectancy in Denmark isn’t as high as in some of the other Scandinavian countries — or even elsewhere in Europe.

According to research compiled by Statistics Denmark, the average overall life expectancy from 2020 to 2021 was 81.5.

Women were expected to live longer than men, with females in Denmark averaging a life expectancy of 83.4 and males 79.6. Different regions had slight variations.

In comparison, neighboring Sweden had an average life expectancy of just under 83 years in 2019. The expected lifespan for people in the other Nordic countries is as follows:

  • Norway: 82.91 years
  • Iceland: 82.56 years
  • Finland: 81.79 years

Denmark also has a lower life expectancy than Canada and the Netherlands, both of which are around 82 years. Spain and Italy have higher expected lifespans, too, as does Switzerland.

However, we can look at several factors why Denmark’s life expectancy is lower than its standard of living suggests; it’s not necessarily an indictment of the healthcare system.

A country can grant access to healthcare, but the individual must also take a level of responsibility. As mentioned earlier, high levels of alcohol consumption in Denmark likely lead to a shorter life for many — as does the consumption of baked goods and red meat.

If you wander the streets of Copenhagen, you’ll quickly notice that many Danes smoke a lot — which is another contributor to a lower lifespan.

Receiving care in Denmark

In terms of receiving care, the Danish healthcare system isn’t too different from other countries. When you obtain a CPR number and state health insurance card, you’ll also sign up with a doctor.

You can change to someone else if you’d rather, and doing so is potentially more efficient if you move to a new address.

Once you’ve chosen your GP, you can book an appointment online. If you have a more pressing issue, you can ring your doctor within the practice’s designated opening hours.

As you’ve probably noticed, Denmark is a very digitized society, and most information is available online. If you want to check your healthcare records, you can do so via sundhed.dk.

How is healthcare in Denmark organized?

The Danish healthcare system is sometimes difficult to understand for foreigners moving here. While the Danish government allocates money for healthcare spending in the country, each region has the freedom to operate its services.

Denmark has five regions when it comes to healthcare:

  • Region Hovedstaden, which covers Copenhagen and its surrounding areas;
  • Midtjylland, which includes Aarhus and the rest of central Jutland;
  • Syddanmark, which includes the island of Fyn and Southern Jutland — along with the islands in this area;
  • Sjælland, which covers the rest of the island outside of the Capital Region;
  • Nordjylland, which covers all of the north of Jutland — including Aalborg.

Representatives for regional healthcare administrations are elected every four years. Denmark’s healthcare regions have been organized as such since 2007, though suggestions that it should be reformed have risen in recent years.

Receiving care outside of Denmark as a Danish resident

While Denmark doesn’t use the Euro and has no obligation to ever do so, the country is still a member of the European Union (EU). If you live here, you can obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

When you travel within the EU and EEA, you can use your card to get free or subsidized healthcare if you need it. The rules will depend on that country’s healthcare policy; you can order your card online.

Note that when you get the CPR card, you won’t automatically receive an EHIC.

How good is healthcare in Denmark from a quality perspective?

The TL;DR of healthcare in Denmark is that the system is pretty efficient, and booking a doctor’s appointment isn’t too difficult. Everything from receiving your doctor’s advice to renewing medication can be done online via newly developed apps.

All your health info, as well as future appointments are available in an online secure system. All family doctors offer video consultations and same day appointments, if the matter is acute.

When you change your address, you’ll automatically have a new CPR card shipped to you in the post; you might need to wait a few weeks before receiving this.

But does Denmark have free healthcare that is actually good when you receive it?

Well, let’s find out from those that live here.

In 2019, Voxmeter — a Danish research company — surveyed 1,009 people to discover their thoughts on healthcare in the country. The research, which was conducted in early January of that year, revealed that not far from six in 10 people had confidence in how the healthcare system operates.

The Local covered other key findings from the report, which included that almost three-quarters of people were satisfied with their most recent use of the Danish healthcare system.

How much does Denmark spend on healthcare?

When looking at the quality of a country’s healthcare system, it’s important to factor spending into the equation. Of course, providing high-quality health care services is expensive — but it helps if a country is resourceful and allocates its money wisely.

According to data from the World Bank, Denmark spent 9.96% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare in 2019. That year its overall GDP was $350.1 billion — which translates to $60,213.09 per capita.

Compared to the other Scandinavian countries, Denmark’s spending on healthcare as a percentage of its GDP isn’t drastically different. In 2019, Norway spent 10.52% of its GDP on medical assistance — while Sweden spent 10.87%.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Denmark allocated a significant amount of resources to get the virus under control. Statistics vary, but Berlingske reported in 2021 that — according to a leaked document — testing in the country cost two billion kroner (c.$284.6 million) per month.

Who pays for healthcare in Denmark?

Healthcare in Denmark is largely funded by the taxpayer. People in the country pay relatively high income taxes, which average at around 45% for most individuals; particularly high earners can pay over 50% once they reach a certain threshold.

Taxpayer money in Denmark funds much of the public sector and healthcare benefits in several ways. The taxes derived from residents’ income goes toward facilities and various other things.

Despite Denmark’s universal healthcare, private health insurance is a possibility. According to statistics cited by the Commonwealth Fund, 42% of Danes have private insurance — though such plans are designed to cover things like prescription drugs that you can’t get for free.

And that leads us nicely onto the next section…

Is healthcare free in Denmark?

Does Denmark have free healthcare? In short, yes — for the most part.

The Danish healthcare system provides several free services, including check-ups at your local GP and diagnosis. If you require hospital care, you don’t have to pay to stay at any of the country’s public hospitals while you receive treatment.

Vaccinations can be free, as the COVID-19 one was for everyone living in the country. However, you’ll need to check and see whether any that you need for possible trips abroad are.

What does the Danish healthcare system not provide for free?

While a lot of healthcare in Denmark is free, not all of it is provided by the government. First and foremost, you still need to pay your taxes to gain access to the various social benefits and services.

Dental care is not included in the Danish healthcare system for adults, and you’ll need to pay for your own check-ups and treatment. However, going to the dentist here isn’t too expensive — so you don’t have much to worry about in that respect. Moreover, dental care is free for children.

Depending on your diagnosis, you might need prescription drugs to treat an illness. You will need to pay for these. However, since you receive an allowance, these are subsidized, and you won’t pay as much as would otherwise have been the case.

You will also need to pay for your own physiotherapy, though this is again subsidized — ditto for chiropractors and similar services.

The Danish healthcare system vs. the USA

The US healthcare system regularly comes under the spotlight as it’s unique compared to most other developed countries. Unlike Denmark, healthcare is not universal, and your insurance will largely dictate the level of access you receive.

In 2019, the US spent more of its GDP as a percentage on healthcare; 16.77% went toward this if we look at the same World Bank page we mentioned earlier in this article.

Compared to Denmark’s life expectancy, people in the US live a little less on average; the average lifespan is just under 79 years.

The Danish healthcare system vs. the UK

Like Denmark, healthcare in the UK is free and offered through the National Health Service (NHS). At 10.15% of its GDP, Britain spent slightly more on healthcare as a percentage in 2019.

The UK’s public healthcare system is tax-funded, and it has many similar free services to Denmark. For example, you can go to the GP for a check-up, and your hospital stay is also covered.

At 81.2 years, the UK’s life expectancy is similar to Denmark.

Fun facts about healthcare in Denmark

  • Denmark’s life expectancy increased from 77.9 to 80.6 in the 10 years between 2005 and 2015.
  • Between 2000 and 2017, the percentage of smokers in Denmark dropped from 30% to 17%.
  • 37% of adults in Denmark said that they regularly consumed heavy amounts of alcohol in 2014.
  • 17% of adults in Denmark are considered obese.
  • If Denmark’s reform plans for healthcare had gone to plan, it would have seen the system divided into 21 regions.

Healthcare in Denmark isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly not the worst

So, now you know the answer to “Does Denmark have free healthcare?”. The Danish healthcare system isn’t perfect, but it’s more effective than what you’ll find in many developed countries.

Citizens and Danish residents have access to various medical services, subsidized prescriptions, and more. While the taxes are high, the social benefits outweigh the associated cons — and you’ve got help on hand if something goes wrong.

Universal healthcare is one of many reasons that Denmark regularly ranks as one of the world’s happiest countries. Why don’t you find out the rest of the Danes’ secrets?

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