How does the state health insurance system work?

The Icelandic healthcare system is funded out of taxes (85%) and by service fees (15%) and is organized regionally. You will find treatment at:

  • healthcare clinics: heilsugæslur
  • health institutions: heilbrigðisstofnanir
  • university hospitals: háskólasjúkrahús
  • teaching hospitals: kennslusjúkrahús

There are two main hospitals and 16 health institutions across Iceland. Much public healthcare is free at the point of delivery, but you may find that some treatments incur costs. You will need to register with a local GP and healthcare practice.

If you are a UK national, you will be able to access the Icelandic healthcare system in one of the following ways:

  • registering as a legal resident in Iceland and applying for state health insurance
  • using a UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for temporary stays
  • registering a UK-issued S1 with the Icelandic health insurance system

The S1 form entitles UK nationals access to state healthcare on the same basis as an Icelandic citizen. You are entitled to an S1 if you receive a UK State Pension or certain other benefits.

If you are a resident — classified as if you are living in Iceland for more than three months — you can apply for Icelandic state health insurance with the Icelandic Health Insurance Fund (IHI / Sjúkratryggingar Íslands) as soon as you become a registered resident.

You will need to pay contributions towards the cost of your healthcare and this will be deducted from your salary via payroll. The remainder will be paid for by the Icelandic state.

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Who is eligible for state healthcare?

You will be eligible if you register as a legal resident in Iceland and make contributions into the IHI.

How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?

If you are working in the country, you will be signed up for national insurance contributions by your employer, or you can contact the IHI with regard to making voluntary contributions.

What is covered by the state health insurance system?

You will be entitled to pay less for medical services, medicinal products, aid equipment, tests, physiotherapy and the following:

  • medical treatment by a GP
  • medical treatment by a specialist
  • admission to hospital
  • ante-natal care by a midwife
  • hospitalisation
  • medicines
  • x-ray examinations and radiation therapies
  • dental and orthodontic treatment for children and pensioners
  • travel and transport costs due to illness
  • medical aids
  • physiotherapy
  • nursing homes for the elderly
  • nursing at home

The IHI says that payments for the following categories are included in the Payment Participation System:

  • hospital treatment
  • visits to specialists in hospitals
  • visits to specialists outside of hospitals
  • tests and other health researches
  • radiation, x-rays and image analysis
  • psychiatric services for children

Payments you will need to make include:

  • physiotherapy
  • speech therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • The following healthcare services are free:

    • visits to healthcare clinics if you are over 67 years old or disabled
    • inpatient hospital care and treatment
    • maternity care
    • all healthcare services for children with a GP referral

    Children under the age of 18 years old, referred by a healthcare practitioner, do not have to pay a fee for a visit to a specialist. Children from 2-17 years old who do not have a referral will pay ⅓ of the service fee until the payment threshold is reached.

    The IHI says that children with home-care assessment and children under the age of two will not need a reference, and treatment for them is free.

    The referral system includes:

  • specialized medical services
  • laboratory tests
  • radiology analysis that a specialist considers necessary in connection to diagnosis or treatment

Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?

Retirees will be covered by state medical insurance if they register as a legal resident in Iceland and make contributions into the IHI. In addition, if you are above a certain age, you will be entitled to a wider range of services and benefits aimed at the elderly and disabled.

Are students covered by state medical insurance?

If you are an EU national you should have an EHIC card, but bear in mind that this is really intended for emergency care and may not cover all eventualities. It is advisable to take out travel insurance with health cover, or a comprehensive private policy, to cover your time in Iceland. Contact your educational institution to see if they have in-house insurance or can recommend an affiliated insurer.

Will your family be covered by your insurance?

If you have been legally resident in Iceland for six months or more, you and your dependents will automatically be entitled to health insurance in Iceland.

Children under the age of 18 are covered by the health insurance of their parents.

Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?

Dental care is not completely covered by Icelandic Health Insurance, but it will fund some care depending on your age. Dental treatment for children is free under the Icelandic Dental Association, apart from an annual appointment charge of ISK 2,500 (around €16). Children must be registered with a family dentist in order to be entitled to refunds.

The IHI also refunds a proportion of the dental costs of the elderly and pensioners aged 67 and older.

If you are between 16 and 67, you will need to pay out of pocket costs, or take out a dental plan.

What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?

The IHI sets the maximum payment limits on how much you will have to pay each month for healthcare services. This amount is lower for children, people over 67 years old, and disabled people.

The maximum payment is ISK 26.753 (€170) but for pensioners, people with disabilities and children the maximum is ISK 17.835 (€113). Siblings 17 years old and younger, who are registered with the same legal residence according to the National Registry, are considered as one person in the payment system.

Once you have paid this amount, your healthcare will be free for the rest of that month.

Why buy private health insurance?

The Icelandic public healthcare system is so comprehensive that you may feel that you do not need private cover, but some expats take out private health insurance in order to cover repatriation in the event of a health emergency, or to cover them elsewhere when travelling. You may also want to take out private insurance to cover you for the period while you are waiting for residency.

The government is currently building two private hospitals in Reykjanesbaer and Mosfellsbaer to cater for medical tourism, offering specialised surgery and treatment such as joint replacement, plus a private dental clinic.

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What is covered by private health insurance?

Some doctors in the public sector take on private patients. Some specialists also take private clients. Medical tourism for treatments such as dental implants is a growing sector.

How much does private health insurance cost?

This will depend on factors such as your age and any pre-existing conditions, and the kind of package you opt for (obviously, a more expensive insurance package will give you more a extensive range of treatment and facilities). As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance it becomes very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required.

However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40 year old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.

Which companies offer private health insurance?

Some of the main international providers cover Iceland, including:

  • AXA
  • Cigna
  • Foyer Global Health
  • Pacific Prime

Glossary of health insurance terms

háskólasjúkrahús - university hospitals

heilbrigðisstofnanir - health institutions

heilsugæslur - healthcare clinics

kennslusjúkrahús - teaching hospitals

Sjúkratryggingar Íslands - Icelandic Health Insurance Fund/IHI

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