What Sweden’s new coronavirus cash boost means for healthcare services

What Sweden's new coronavirus cash boost means for healthcare services
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Centre Party leader Annie Lööf at a joint press conference on Monday. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Sweden's centre-left government and its parliamentary allies have pledged to hand out billions of kronor to healthcare and elderly care, in a series of new investments to boost a welfare sector battered by the corona pandemic.

“It is, if you pardon me, a heck of an investment in welfare,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven as he presented the new proposal at a joint press conference with Centre Party leader Annie Lööf on Monday morning.

Work to hammer out Sweden's next budget is under way between the Social Democrat-Green coalition government and the Centre and Liberals, and it is set to be a more important task than ever as the country attempts to kick-start its economy and jobs in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The full budget is scheduled to be presented to parliament later this month, but news about various proposals usually trickles out in dribs and drabs in the weeks leading up to the big day, and today was one such day.

The government's budget proposal will earmark a permanent annual investment of four billion kronor (approximately $458 million) to boosting elderly care, as well as an additional 1.7 billion kronor which will be added on top of a previously advertised package designed to drive new and skilled staff to elderly care. In total, that means that Sweden's elderly care sector will altogether receive 7.4 billion kronor in 2021.

Four billion kronor per year will also be injected into Sweden's healthcare sector over the next two years, to help plug the gap of a 'healthcare deficit' as a result of planned surgeries being postponed during the coronavirus crisis. The money can also be used for coronavirus-related medical care.

The four parties involved in the budget negotiations – set out in the so-called January Agreement which enabled the Social Democrats and Greens to take office in 2019 – also propose increasing the funding for Sweden's 290 municipalities and 21 regions in general. That includes a cash boost of 10 billion kronor next year and five billion in 2022, of which 70 percent will be added to the coffers of municipalities and 30 percent to regions.

In total, the proposal presented on Monday includes investments in the welfare state to the tune of 19.7 billion kronor to be handed to Sweden's local and regional authorities in 2021, said Lööf.

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