Development of voluntary private health insurance in Nordic countries - An exploratory study on country-specific contextual factors

Health Policy. 2018 May;122(5):485-492. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2018.03.008. Epub 2018 Mar 16.


The Nordic countries are healthcare systems with tax-based financing and ambitions for universal access to comprehensive services. This implies that distribution of healthcare resources should be based on individual needs, not on the ability to pay. Despite this ideological orientation, significant expansion in voluntary private health insurance (VPHI) contracts has occurred in recent decades. The development and role of VPHIs are different across the Nordic countries. Complementary VPHI plays a significant role in Denmark and in Finland. Supplementary VPHI is prominent in Norway and Sweden. The aim of this paper is to explore drivers behind the developments of the VPHI markets in the Nordic countries. We analyze the developments in terms of the following aspects: the performance of the statutory system (real or perceived), lack of coverage in certain areas of healthcare, governmental interventions or inability to reform the system, policy trends and the general socio-cultural environment, and policy responses to voting behavior or lobbying by certain interest groups. It seems that the early developments in VPHI markets have been an answer to the gaps in the national health systems created by institutional contexts, political decisions, and cultural interpretations on the functioning of the system. However, once the market is created it introduces new dynamics that have less to do with gaps and inflexibilities and more with cultural factors.

Keywords: Access to care; Healthcare; Nordic countries; Primary care; Private health insurance; Specialized care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • National Health Programs / economics*
  • Private Sector*
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries
  • Socioeconomic Factors