A couple walking in the halls of a healthcare centre. LEHTIKUVA


40 percent of Finns received Kela reimbursements for private healthcare in 2022, according to a press release from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). This represents a slight increase from the drop caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of those receiving Kela reimbursements for private healthcare were located in Varsinais-Suomi, Satakunta, and Helsinki.

In 2022, Kela paid out reimbursements for doctor fees, treatment, research, and dental care to 2.26 million individuals who utilized private healthcare services.

"The number of Kela reimbursement recipients indicates that private services are truly important to Finns. Private healthcare services are especially utilized in dental care," commented Kela specialist Timo Hujanen.

The conditions for receiving reimbursements for private healthcare have been tightened, and reimbursements have been cut several times throughout the 2010s. This has reduced the use of private services and thus the number of Kela reimbursement recipients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare services were utilized at an all-time low in 2020.

In 2021, the number of Kela reimbursement recipients began to rise, with over 110,000 more recipients in 2022 than the previous year.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was pent-up demand for healthcare services. At the same time, there are long waiting times in the public sector. This has affected the spike in demand for private services," said Hujanen.

The comprehensive private healthcare services covered by Kela reimbursements will be reduced as of the beginning of 2023. Their impact will become clear in the early part of the year.

Private doctor services are especially utilized in large cities. More than 45 percent of residents in the welfare areas of Varsinais-Suomi, Satakunta, and Helsinki received reimbursements for private healthcare. The lowest number of Kela reimbursement recipients, less than 30 percent, was in Kainuu and Central Ostrobothnia.

"Private doctor services are particularly available in large cities, which is also reflected in the distribution of reimbursement recipients. In smaller and less densely populated welfare areas, there is less demand for private services," said Hujanen.

Overall, the data from Kela indicates that private healthcare services remain important to many Finns, particularly in the areas of dental care and in larger cities. The trend of increasing reimbursement recipients for private healthcare services may continue, depending on the availability and accessibility of public healthcare services in the coming years.