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Finnish gov't aims to make nurse visits free of charge

A minister said free access to nurses would improve equality and remove barriers to people getting needed care.

Perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Krista Kiuru
Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru in January. Image: Jenni Joensuu / Yle

The Finnish government has proposed that primary care nurse visits become free of charge. The suggestion came as lawmakers considered amendments to the Client Fee Act, which are legal guidelines on public social and health care service fees.

Making nurse visits free would, according to Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru, improve equal access to services and to assist individuals to get the help they need in time.

The bill to change the act will be under review until 1 April, the minister said.

"The change also aims to increase gender equality in health care and to prioritise preventive services, by - among other things - eliminating some fees and making other fees more reasonable. This reform will reduce health care costs for nearly one million [residents], compared to the current situation," Social Democrat minister Kiuru said.

About 40 percent of Finnish municipalities charge patients for nurse appointments, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Bill includes other reforms

The average cost per visit is about 11.40 euros, according to the ministry. However, some municipalities charge more than 20 euros for each visit to a nurse.

The government is also planning other changes to the Client Fee Act, and has earmarked 45 million euros towards the effort.

One proposal includes eliminating the fees minors pay for health exams and care at local clinics.

Also, the government wants to expand the number of healthcare services included in the so-called fee cap - the maximum amount individuals are required to pay for public health care service during a calendar year.

Government now wants to include public dental care services, therapy, temporary home care and temporary home hospital care as well as the charges for some remote health care services.

Currently, an individual's healthcare fees are capped at 683 euros per year.

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