Foreign Travellers Owe National Hospital Millions of Krónur in Medical Fees - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Foreign Travellers Owe National Hospital Millions of Krónur in Medical Fees

Published January 11, 2018

Alice Demurtas
Photos by
Mary Frances
Art Bicnick

Foreign travellers who come to Iceland without a proper health insurance seem to be placing a heavy financial burden on the National University Hospital of Iceland. According to Visir, the debt that uninsured individuals have accumulated with the Hospital amounts to around 190 million ISK, or 1.8 million USD, for the period between 2013 and 2016. The debt has already increased over the last year.

Triple Trouble

Naturally, as the number of tourists has more than doubled since 2013, so has the number of uninsured individuals seeking medical assistance. However, while in 2013 the Hospital received 1,053 uninsured travelers, in the last few years the Hospital received up to 2,700 individuals only during the months of July and August.

The amount of money owned by each individual differs according to the assistance required, including types of medicines and intensive care. The highest debt accumulated by a single person amounts so far to 8.4 million ISK, or 80,000 USD.

A Better System

This is not to say that all uninsured individuals leave the country without paying their debt. On the contrary, the Hospital confirmed that around 80% of them offer cash payment straight away. When the Hospital doesn’t receive a cash payment however, the individual is charged through their online bank. If that fee is not paid within the due date, the bill steadily increases, but it might take a long time before the fee is paid, especially when foreign insurance agencies are involved.

The National Health System has been in desperate need of money and better management, including new equipment and more staff, for the past few years. Luckily, however, Iceland has not come to the point of refusing patients the assistance they require only because they are uninsured. A better system to prevent the accumulation of such debt without imposing inhumane treatment of patients is hopefully in the works.


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