For members


How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Learning about Norway's National Health Insurance Scheme is essential. So here's a look at some common problems foreigners in Norway come up against and how to avoid them.

How Norway's health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face
Here's how to avoid common problems with the National Health Insurance Scheme. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Norway’s National Health Insurance Scheme

The word ‘free’ is used loosely when it comes to describing healthcare in the Scandinavian country. Norway’s healthcare system is financed through national and municipal taxes. So residents are supporting their ‘free’ services through tax. Truly free health insurance is only offered to those under 16 years of age who do not pay taxes to Norway. 

Access to Norway’s healthcare and social services is not determined by whether you are a Norwegian citizen, nor whether you are registered in the National Population Register or pay taxes in Norway. It is based on residence or employment. But before you settle in and assume you’re covered from day one, there are some provisions.

  • To be considered a resident of Norway, you must have plans to live in the country for at least twelve months.
  • Membership with Norway’s National Health Insurance Scheme is only available for those who are in the country legally.
  • If you are planning on staying in Norway for less than twelve months, are not working, but have strong ties to the country, then you may be entitled to voluntary membership of Norway’s National Health Insurance Scheme.

If you are legally living in Norway but plan on studying or working abroad for a period of time, look here to see your healthcare membership eligibility while outside the country. 

And the common problems foreigners need to overcome?

  • Signing up 

According to the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV), you will be automatically enrolled in the Norwegian National Health Insurance Scheme if you are legally working or living in Norway.

Processing times can range from a few days to a month, and you will usually receive confirmation through the post when you have been added to the system.

Healthcare is a large part of the Norwegian National Health Insurance Scheme, as are social services such as welfare. If you need economic support, you can apply for assistance if you are legally living in the country. How much you will receive depends on your situation and application processing times vary between each individual evaluation and municipality. 

READ MORE: Seven things foreigners in Norway should know about the healthcare system 

There are many rules and guidelines if you decide to apply for economic assistance. To see what procedures, information, and advice you are entitled to, look here.

Self-employed workers are also entitled to the same benefits as traditional employees in Norway. Though it is up to them to register events like sick leave on their own. 

  • Somethings are not free

The healthcare system in Norway is of a high standard and covers most expenses. Because it is so comprehensive, many new to the country assume that all health matters are covered by national health insurance. It is important to remember that vision and dental insurance are not a part of the public health care plan. 

Dental treatment is free for those between one and 18 years of age. If you are 19 or 20 years old, you must pay 25 percent of the total bill. If you are 21 or older, then you are required to foot the bill. 

However, there are exemptions for special cases. You can find out more about the payment exceptions here.

Eye exams, contact lenses, and glasses are not covered by public health insurance. These are normally services offered by private companies such as Spec Savers and Brilleland.

In addition to vision and dental, cosmetic surgeries are also not covered by public health insurance. 

Here is a price list for common services in Norway.

What is a frikort?

frikort or an “exemption card” is a card given out once you have reached the maximum limit of fees the public is required to pay per calendar year. In 2021, the maximum amount in fees you are expected to pay is 2,460 kroner before being eligible for a frikort

  • Many things have gone digital 

Many newcomers to Norway are surprised to find how digitalised health services in the country are. After you have become a member of the national insurance scheme, you can go online to order prescriptions, find available appointments with your GP, have digital communication with their doctor, and look at summaries of past medical appointments. 

For an overview of all the services and information, you can use online, look here.

  • Finding your GP

While your acceptance into the National Health Insurance Scheme may be automatic, it is up to you to choose your GP. 

There are a few guidelines to be aware of if you, for some reason, want to change from your original choice. You are allowed to change your GP up to two times in one year. You can also choose to switch if you officially change your address or if your GP cuts their patient list. You can find a list of general practitioners at

  • The waiting times

As previously stated, the standard of health care in Norway is high, and you can visit your GP or a specialist as often as you need them. But it is not uncommon to have to wait a few weeks before you find an available appointment. The same goes for non-critical surgeries. It is not unusual to wait up to six months for a non-life-threatening yet necessary surgery.

Useful Vocabulary

egenandel – deductible

fastlege – general practitioner 

optiker – optometrist 

tannlege – dentist 

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For members


Where can you get help if you are pregnant in Norway?

Whether you're a first-time parent or have experienced the process before, understanding the resources and services available in Norway in the first trimester of pregnancy can make this time more manageable and less stressful.

Where can you get help if you are pregnant in Norway?

Expectant parents in Norway can rely on a comprehensive and supportive healthcare system.

Generally speaking, all pregnant women are entitled to free follow-ups with their midwife and/or GP.

Nine pregnancy consultations, including fetal diagnostics and ultrasounds, are offered during the pregnancy – but you may also be offered more consultations if your GP or midwife, together with you, decide that they are needed.

READ MORE: What benefits are you entitled to if you have children in Norway?

As you embark on this path, the initial trimester is a crucial period filled with significant developments and changes, both physical and emotional.

In this overview, we delve into what to expect from Norway’s healthcare system during your first trimester, guiding you through the vital aspects of prenatal care and assistance that ensure a healthy start to your pregnancy journey.

Contacting your health provider after finding out you’re pregnant

As soon as you confirm your pregnancy through a home test, don’t hesitate to contact your local health centre or general practitioner (GP) to arrange your initial consultation.

You can expect to secure an appointment within a week of contacting your healthcare provider.

Moreover, you can choose whether you prefer follow-up care from your GP or a midwife or even alternate between them (meaning that you can see both) as you see fit.

While there is a comprehensive offer of GPs and midwives in major cities, that does not mean the service will be offered in each neighbourhood or near your home.

Don’t be surprised if you must take public transport or drive for more than 20 or 30 minutes to reach your GP or health centre offering midwife consultations.

Initial consultation appointments (weeks 6-12)

Usually, your GP will ask you to bring a sample of your morning urine for routine urine tests. This step aids in monitoring your health and the progress of your pregnancy.

Your first antenatal (pre-birth) consultation is an important milestone. During this visit, your midwife or doctor will ask a series of questions to understand your specific needs and expectations for the upcoming months.

This early consultation focuses on several issues, and this is usually when you can get most of your questions answered. Your midwife or doctor will likely share advice on lifestyle and preparing for pregnancy, share thoughts and plan out your prenatal care, and go through the maternity services available in your area.

Additionally, you’ll receive an Antenatal Health Card (usually printed on a sheet of paper), which will be updated during subsequent consultations. This card is crucial, so remember to bring it to every appointment.

The questions and topics that will come up

The initial consultations in weeks 6-12 will cover a wide range of topics, from diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices to your overall health, medical history, and any medications you may be taking.

The GP or midwife will also ask you about previous pregnancies, childbirth experiences, maternity leave, breastfeeding, and any past abortions.

They will check whether you’re feeling okay and for your assessment of your own mental health and well-being.

Health checks in weeks 6-12

At each consultation, you’ll undergo essential health checks.

Usually, the first one will be a simple urine test to check for proteins. This will be followed by blood pressure measurement.

After that, you can expect blood tests to screen for hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis, as well as assessments of haemoglobin and serum ferritin levels.

Your pre-pregnancy weight will also be recorded on your health card.

Depending on your specific circumstances, further tests may be recommended and discussed during your consultations.

In Norway, the first ultrasound examination usually doesn’t take place before week 11 or 12, and you can’t have it at your GP – you will generally need to be referred to a gynaecologist at your local hospital.

In any case, all pregnant women are offered an ultrasound examination before week 14. As HelseNorge, the official website for information about and access to health services for residents of Norway, points out, the examination is offered free of charge.

Most pregnant women will have the ultrasound scan at their local hospital (for a fee of roughly 200 kroner, you can get the ultrasound images printed out). You will receive more information about what your local hospital offers at your first doctor or midwife consultation.

However, you can always opt for a private ultrasound before week 11 – just know these are expensive. In 2023, an ultrasound checkup at Volvat cost around 2,200 kroner.

The NIPT test: Eligibility and cost

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (or NIPT) is used to see if your baby has an increased chance of a genetic health condition, such as Down syndrome and other chromosomal differences.

If you’re 35 years or older by your estimated due date or if you have specific risk factors, you will be offered the test.

The NIPT test is readily accessible through public health services and is free of charge.

For pregnant women who are younger than 35 at their due date and do not present specific risk factors, the public health services do not routinely offer NIPT.

However, if you fall into this category and desire to have the NIPT test, you have the option to reach out to authorised private clinics. At the time of writing, the cost of the test at Volvat was around 10,000 kroner.

READ MORE: The most important things to do after having a baby in Norway

As you progress through the first trimester, it’s important to remember that you should reach out to your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about the changes occurring in your body (such as pains, bleeding, or similar).

Overall, your first trimester is a time of preparation and planning. Norway’s healthcare system is dedicated to ensuring a healthy and informed start to your pregnancy journey – though you might be surprised by how “hands off” everything feels (at least compared to some other European countries, which offer more ultrasound checkups in the first trimester).