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HEALTH

Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period

Extended processing times for residence permits due to a Covid-19 backlog have left many waiting in Denmark for months without access to the public health programme. Here's what to expect on accessing – and paying for – medical care without a personal registration (CPR) number.

Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period
Access to Denmark's public health system can be difficult for people who are awaiting procedure of residence applications Several of The Local's readers have reported extended waiting times. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Readers of The Local Denmark report little assistance understanding their access to healthcare from SIRI, the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration that processes residence permit applications. SIRI press officers told The Local Denmark they weren’t certain about applicants’ eligibility for free medical care while awaiting their personal registration or CPR number. 

Foreign residents with questions regarding your personal circumstances can contact a patient advisor at local hospitals. These are listed on the borger.dk website

Contacted by The Local’s reporter, a patient representative at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen didn’t mince words explaining what people without a CPR can expect.  

“If you have applied for a residence permit when you already are in the country, then you are entitled to stay here, but that doesn’t mean you have any rights at all, to be frank,” the advisor said.

Emergency care 

While you are eligible to receive emergency care in Denmark, you will be required to pay for it. “They will not deny you the emergency care, but they will charge you,” the Rigshospitalet patient representative said. 

This is a policy change that was initiated in the last few years, they noted. Emergency care in Denmark was free of charge even without a CPR number until 2019.

Non-urgent care 

Access to routine medical care, referrals to specialists, and hospital admission is usually handled by your general practitioner, who is assigned to you by the Danish government when you receive your CPR number and yellow health insurance card. But for those awaiting residency permits, things are a little more complicated. 

“If you are a citizen from [a non-European country], then you are only entitled to emergency treatment and all emergency treatment is against payment,” a patient advisor at Rigshospitalet-Glostrup stated.

“Then if you have relatives [who are EU citizens] during the lack of insurance, you are also entitled to treatment which is not emergency – like planned operation or examination at hospitals, but still it’s against payment,” they added. 

The Local’s reporter contacted the patient advice lines with health insurance queries after being referred to them by SIRI’s press service.

“I have various health conditions that I want to get checked but can’t because it’s not an ’emergency,'” one reader, who waited months without receiving her residence permit, told The Local.

“The insurance situation in the US is abysmal, but if I was there, I could at least sign up for insurance and be able to use it right away,” she added. 

Patient advisors say the best bet is to reach out to several local general practitioners and ask if they’re willing to see patients who don’t have a CPR on a pay-for-service basis. (It may take several tries: one reporter at the Local Denmark found that two GPs hung up the phone when she spoke English, and one said they do not accept patients without a CPR.) 

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If you successfully recruit a willing GP, they’re able to refer you to specialists within the public health system, again on a pay-for-service basis, or get you admitted into a hospital. 

Your other option is to reach out directly to specialists at private hospitals that don’t require referrals. Care through private hospitals is likely to be more expensive. 

Do I need insurance? 

The short answer is that yes, if you don’t want to get stuck with a surprise bill if you get hit by a car or need to be hospitalised with Covid-19, you’ll need private insurance. 

But be careful – “Danish private health insurance” is something of a red herring. Many Danes do have access to private health insurance plans through their employer or pension group, but those are only a supplement to the national health programme (so that PFA health insurance on its own wouldn’t cover treatment for your hypothetical bike crash concussion at a public hospital.) 

When choosing an international plan – usually offered by the major health and travel insurance companies – be certain to read what’s included since it’s likely to differ from the standards in your home country. For example, many providers of international insurance won’t cover pre-existing conditions at all, or will only do so for a (substantial) additional fee. Others consider medications an extra. 

Also be vigilant for whether their network makes sense for where you live in Denmark, specifically. Some providers that say they have an extensive network only cover a handful of Denmark’s private hospitals. 

Member comments

  1. British nationals taking up residence in Denmark after 1st January 2021 (and therefore not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement) are able to use the new GHIC card to get access to emergency healthcare. If someone is legally resident here but has not yet been issued with a yellow card, they can still access healthcare by being given an emergency CPR number. Any Brits who are waiting for their CPR to come through who need medical treatment should contact the British Embassy if they are having problems.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How does Denmark’s “danmark” private health insurance work?

Denmark has a free healthcare system but for some non-free services such as the dentist and physiotherapy, you can take out an insurance scheme that will give you a discount each time you attend.

EXPLAINED: How does Denmark's

The basic principle of the Danish welfare system is that all citizens have equal rights to social security. The majority of health services are financed by taxes and are mainly free of charge. This includes access to a family doctor or GP, as well as free specialist consultations and treatments.

Anyone who is registered as a resident in Denmark and issued with a personal registration number is entitled to all public health services. This is stated on yellow health card (sundhedskort), which is issued by the municipality in which you reside.

However there are certain areas of the health system that are not free, including dentists, physiotherapists and opticians. So many people become members of a private health insurance scheme called Sygeforsikring “danmark”.

What is Sygeforsikring “danmark”?

Sygeforsikring “danmark”, often shortened to just “danmark” (the small ‘d’ and double quote marks are part of the stylisation of a somewhat confusing name) has around 2.4 million members, who pay membership fees rather than premiums. It was once comparable to the unemployment insurance scheme A-Kasse, before there was a free public health service in Denmark.

Many large companies offer their employees health cover from the scheme. Once a member, you get subsidies for various services from dentists, chiropractors, psychologists to certain operations. The members’ site lists the different practitioners to choose from.

READ ALSO: Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period

Who can become members?

To become a member of “danmark” you must meet certain health and age requirements. This includes being under the age of 60, not having a serious illness or being on medication. You must live in Denmark and have a CPR number. You must not have been referred to, expect to have or have been treated by a physiotherapist, chiropractor, psychologist or other therapists within the past 12 months.

You are not necessarily excluded if you are not completely healthy or on medication. Your condition will be assessed and affect the cost of your membership.

Can children become members?

When you become a member, your children can be co-insured for free, until they are 16 years old.

16-25 year-old membership plans include 100 percent subsidies for various dental treatments and increased subsidies for psychologists, vaccinations and contact lenses.

In 2022, a law was passed in Denmark which now means dental care is free for children and young adults until they turn 22. The law applies to everyone born in 2004 and after.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to go to the dentist in Denmark?

Is it the same as life and critical-illness insurance?

It isn’t but you can buy this as an extra part of your membership, which provides financial help in the event of life-threatening illness and death.

READ ALSO: Can foreigners in Denmark access free health care?

What are the different levels of insurance cover?

There are four different levels of cover: Basic, Group 5, Group 1, Group 2. Before you become a member, you answer certain questions to find out which group is best for you.

Basic cover

The basic cover is for those who don’t need to use the subsidy offers at the time of joining but want to make sure they can have it in the future without having to submit a health declaration. This costs 99 kroner per quarter or 396 kroner per year (2024) plus a 1.1 percent statutory non-life insurance tax to the state. 

Group 5

With Group 5, you get subsidies for medicine, vaccinations, dental appointments, glasses and contact lenses. You get a subsidy for the price of a physiotherapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, reflexologist or psychologist  You can also get money off certain treatments abroad (EU/EEA/UK).

This cover plan costs 407 kroner per quarter or 1,628 kroner per year (2024) plus a 1.1 percent statutory non-life insurance tax.

Group 1

You get all the subsidies for Group 5 but it also it also covers foot treatment and extended dental treatment. After one year, the cover provides a subsidy for a number of operations. This includes certain treatments and operations abroad (EU/EEA/UK).

It costs 904 kroner per quarter or 3.616 kroner per year (2024) plus the 1.1 percent statutory non-life insurance tax.

Group 2
 
Group 2 is the most comprehensive cover and as well as the subsidies for Group 1, it includes subsidies for specialist medical care and laboratory tests and certain treatments and operations abroad (EU/EEA/UK). After one year, the cover also provides a subsidy for a number of operations.
 
This cover plan costs 1,086 kroner per quarter or 4,344 kroner per year (2024) plus the 1.1 percent statutory non-life insurance tax.
 
How much money will I save?
 
You can see exactly what subsidies are given for each treatment to help you decide on membership, but a few examples are outlined below.
 
A basic consultation at the dentist has a subsidy of 70 kroner for each membership group. Root canal treatment has a subsidy of up to 300 kroner for each membership group. Because there are a range of different diagnostics and treatments you might need when you visit the dentist, the various subsidies amount to a significant saving.
 
For contact lenses, there is a total subsidy of 840 kroner per year or 600 kroner for Group 5. A pair of glasses can be subsided at either 30 percent of the total price or 420 kroner for all memberships.
 
For physiotherapy, there’s a total subsidy over 12 months of 600 kroner for Group 5, 1,200 kroner for Group 1 and 1,500 kroner for Group 2.
 
These discounts are automatically registered and calculated (normally a member of staff such as a receptionist will ask if you are a member of “danmark” when you arrive for your appointment). They are then paid back into your account. You can choose for this to be done on an annual, half-yearly, quarterly or monthly basis.

READ ALSO: Danish government announces plan to spend half a billion on mental health

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