The health care system of Norway is committed to providing health care services for all citizens regardless of income and to the principle of equal access to services. Accordingly, the health status of Norwegians is one of the best in the world, ranking much higher than that of the United States.
The health care system in Norway is organized in three levels: local, regional, and national. The local level is represented by 434 municipalities; each municipality is responsible for providing all the services under primary health care to their population. The regional level has the responsibility for specialist health care and is represented by five regions. The national level is responsible for health care overall and is managed by the Ministry of Health and Care Services. (1)
Primary care is mainly publicly provided and has as its’ general aim the improvement of the general health of the population and the treatment of health problems that do not require hospitalization. Each of the 434 municipalities decide individually how to best serve their particular population and are responsible for the provision and funding of primary health care. Areas that are included in primary health care are promotion of health and prevention of illness, general medical treatment, and nursing care. At this level general practitioners provide basic health care and act as gatekeepers for any specialty service. Every Norwegian is given the right to choose one practitioner as their primary care provider. After choosing, they are required to seek care from this provider only; however, they have the right to change practitioners twice a year. Another right includes the freedom to seek a second opinion from another general practitioner.
Regionally, specialized health services are provided by Norway’s five regional health authorities. Hospitals, mental health institutions, drug rehabilitation programs, and such services as laboratory and radiology are provided by the regional authorities. Each region has an enterprise that is owned by the state and is fully responsible for providing specialized health care to that regions’ inhabitants.
Nationally, Norway’s parliament serves as the political decision-making body for health care. They are responsible for planning and subsidizing the education of health personnel, they develop and implement national health policies, and they are responsible for the funding of national health care. The Norwegian health care system is primarily funded by taxes but is supplemented by state grants and some user charges. National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was created in 1967 by the Norwegian government. It is a universal, tax-funded, single payer health system that covers 100 percent of the Norwegian citizens and residents, unless they opt out of it. The health status of the Norwegian population is considered one of the best in the world; yet, in 2003 Norway only spent 10.3% of their gross domestic product...