Way back in November last year, I visited the dentist — first in Sweden, first in about two years, I should think in general. My teeth passed with flying colors.
My new homeland’s nanny state, however, did not. My new dentist said that I was not yet “in the system” for health care coverage. I had my new personal number, I thought everything was set! I shelled out my 800 SEK, and then Matt and I went scrambling a bit for information.
I feel a little bit like I’ve been scrambling ever since. We have gathered tidbits from natives and expats alike, in dribs and drabs. It is still not clear how things work here. It took me until today to feel like I am just beginning to understand the system, a teeny tiny bit.
So, I have fibroids and wanted to see an OBGYN last year. I called the gynecologist closest to our sublet sometime last winter, and while a midwife there would see me for my annual PAP smear (in fact, I was *invited* by the public health system to come get one any time in the following year, after they made an appointment for me that I missed), the doctor herself was booked for months. I eventually heard about a clinic called Mamma Mia (yes, really! it’s for women and kids); I got in to see an OB/Gyn after waiting a month or so.
This April appointment went, well, okay — the doctor told me nothing I did not already know from experiences with other doctors in the U.S. and Switzerland. However, she gave me the all-important Högkostnadskort, a blue accordion-shaped piece of paper to document all of my out-of-pocket payments for any doctor appointments. But she did not speak English well — she spoke Italian and Swedish, so I may not have understood some key points, like her referral to a clinic to get a specific test. After months of trying to book this test, a nurse told me that they no longer administer it (unless you have urinary incontinence).
Meanwhile, my frustration was growing. Mamma Mia would not book a meeting with another OB/Gyn in their office who speaks English until November. So, I walked down the street to a private hospital near our new apartment and asked whom to contact. I sent them an email (great!) and got and answer immediately (amazing!) — but they couldn’t see me for another month.
In the meantime, they suggested that I contact this other hospital — which I called the next day, and the kind receptionist set my first appointment for four days later. The nurse had selected a doctor for me who had done her thesis on fibroids.
So, several visits to several different clinics over half a year to get to a point where I could actually *see* someone who seems competent enough to deal with my problem, and to do it in English, as I found out this morning. Perhaps if I’d known to go to one of the major hospitals here first, I could have started down this path months ago, it seems.
In the meantime, as I checked in for my appointment this morning, I hit a major milestone in the healthcare system here: I have spent 1,000 SEK on clinic visits, filling up my Högkostnadskort. Now I do not have to pay anything until next April, for any visit. Holy crow. And my visit today — the most productive of all — cost me a mere 130 SEK.
I can complain about the nanny state, but this November, when I go see the dentist again, I predict I won’t have to pay for the visit.