Doctors appointment. LEHTIKUVA


In April 2023, the number of individuals receiving reimbursements for private doctor visits through Kela (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland) decreased by 80,000 compared to March. The reduction in private medical fees and the elimination of reimbursements for examinations and treatment may have had some impact on the utilization of services. This article explores the implications of these changes and the broader context of private healthcare services in Finland.

The number of individuals receiving Kela reimbursements for private doctor visits experienced a significant increase towards the end of 2022. While there was a decline in reimbursements in December 2022, the numbers rebounded in January-March 2023. In March, approximately 260,000 individuals received reimbursements for private doctor visits. However, in April 2023, there was a substantial drop of around 80,000 beneficiaries.

The decline in visit numbers in April can be attributed, at least in part, to a decrease in the number of weekdays compared to the previous year. It remains to be seen whether this drop is temporary or if usage will stabilize once again in May. According to Timo Hujanen, a specialist researcher at Kela, the reduction in April's visit volume may also be influenced by the recent cut in private doctor fees in 2023, the elimination of reimbursements for examinations and treatment, and the current queue situation in the public sector.

The utilization of private healthcare services was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions. In the spring of 2020, the pandemic led to a decrease in the utilization of private services. Various factors, including fear of exposure and limitations on non-essential services, contributed to this decline.

In 2019, Kela reimbursed 1.48 million individuals for private doctor services. However, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, there was a significant drop of 106,000 beneficiaries, followed by an additional decrease of 23,000 individuals in 2021. In 2022, the number of beneficiaries began to recover, reaching 1.45 million individuals, returning to pre-pandemic levels.

While the impact of the fee reduction and the elimination of reimbursements for examinations and treatment on service utilization is yet to be determined, it is important to consider the broader healthcare landscape in Finland. Public sector queue situations and other factors may influence individuals' decisions to seek private healthcare services.

For those interested in tracking the developments in Kela reimbursements for private healthcare, monthly statistics can be accessed through Kelasto, Kela's statistical information service.

The significant decrease in Kela reimbursements for private doctor visits in April 2023 raises questions about the potential effects of fee reductions and the removal of reimbursements for examinations and treatment. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially impacted the utilization of private healthcare services, the numbers have gradually recovered. Continued monitoring of these trends will provide valuable insights into the evolving landscape of private healthcare in Finland.