Everything expats should know about Danish healthcare

So, you’re moving to Denmark! It’s time to loosen your belt buckle, because there’s no way you’ll be able to resist all the sticky pastries and smørrebrød you’re about to find in every second shop.

Everything expats should know about Danish healthcare
Photo: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

But first things first, you should get your head around the healthcare system before you land. The last thing you want is to arrive and realise you have no idea who to see in case of a nødsituation (that means emergency, by the way).

On the bright side, all Danish citizens have equal access to the country’s healthcare system, and you will too once you’re registered in Denmark and receive your CPS number and yellow health insurance card.

On the not-so bright side, you should be aware that not all healthcare services are available through Denmark’s public health insurance. Consequently, it’s a good idea to take out a private health insurance package — particularly like these packages offered by Cigna Global that are designed specifically for expats — so if the unexpected arises you’re covered under any circumstance. 

Find out more about Cigna Global health insurance

Finding a doctor

First off, you’ll need to register in the Civil Registration System (CPS) in your local municipality. You can do this at your nearest Citizen Service Centre. 

At this time you will be presented with a list of GPs within your municipality (kommune), and it’s up to you to decide which one to register with. It’s your right to choose your own GP so you can pick a male or female doctor, depending on which you’re more comfortable with. When you receive your healthcare card your chosen GP’s name, address, and telephone will appear on it.

You’ll find the majority of Danes speak impeccable English, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to go out of your way to find an English-speaking doctor. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the surgery beforehand.

Once you’re registered with a doctor, the general procedure for making an appointment is by calling up the surgery and speaking to the receptionist. Depending on how serious your illness is, this can be done on the same day or with several days’ notice.

Emergency care

If you have to see a doctor after 4pm on a weekday or on weekends or public holidays, you should call the emergency doctor (vagtlægen) service. You can find the number for out-of-hours medical service in your region on this website.

In case of a life-threatening emergency, you should dial Europe’s common emergency telephone number, (+45) 112. It’s free to call and will put you in immediate contact with the ambulance service.

If you come down with a sudden illness and need to speak to a doctor or nurse, you should call (+45) 1813 for referral to the closest hospital emergency department or urgent care centre. You’re required to call this number before going to a hospital’s emergency department, and won’t be admitted if you haven’t.

Hospital stays are free of charge as they are paid for through taxation. 

Specialist care

In Denmark, you won’t be able to see a specialist without a referral from your GP, including for paediatric and gynaecological visits. Your doctor will issue you with a written referral, which you need for the consultation or treatment to be covered by public health insurance.

With private health insurance, you can often cut out the middleman and arrange your own specialist care. Cigna Global’s optional International Outpatient module can be added to any of its expat packages, covering consultations with specialists and medical practitioners, including osteopathy, chiropractic care, and physiotherapy.


In Denmark, pharmacies (apotek) have exclusive rights to sell prescription medicines to consumers. Apotek are often run by private pharmacists, who have been licensed by the state — the staff are highly trained and can also provide you with advice about medicines and their uses.

Some medicines can only be bought if you have a medical prescription from your doctor. You will have to pay for prescriptions; however, the Danish National Health Service subsidises the cost in many cases. If you spend more than DKK 850 a year on medicine eligible for reimbursement, you will automatically get some money back.


The level of care in Denmark is generally high and public healthcare insurance covers many appointments, treatments and procedures. 

However, many expats still prefer to take out private health insurance from an international provider like Cigna Global. The flexible options mean you can find a package that suits your situation, so you can focus on settling into your new life instead of worrying about what to do if you or someone in your family falls ill.

Click here to get a free quote from Cigna Global

The content within this article has been created by The Local and provides only a general overview for information only. No reliance should be placed on the information contained with this article. Nothing in this article is intended to constitute legal, tax, financial planning, health or medical advice.
The Local is an affiliate advertiser of Cigna Global and has been paid a fee to market Cigna Global individual private medical insurance plans within the content of this article.
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For members


Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period

Extended processing times for residence permits due to a Covid-19 backlog have left many waiting in Denmark for months without access to the public health programme. Here's what to expect on accessing – and paying for – medical care without a personal registration (CPR) number.

Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period
Access to Denmark's public health system can be difficult for people who are awaiting procedure of residence applications Several of The Local's readers have reported extended waiting times. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Readers of The Local Denmark report little assistance understanding their access to healthcare from SIRI, the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration that processes residence permit applications. SIRI press officers told The Local Denmark they weren’t certain about applicants’ eligibility for free medical care while awaiting their personal registration or CPR number. 

Foreign residents with questions regarding your personal circumstances can contact a patient advisor at local hospitals. These are listed on the website

Contacted by The Local’s reporter, a patient representative at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen didn’t mince words explaining what people without a CPR can expect.  

“If you have applied for a residence permit when you already are in the country, then you are entitled to stay here, but that doesn’t mean you have any rights at all, to be frank,” the advisor said.

Emergency care 

While you are eligible to receive emergency care in Denmark, you will be required to pay for it. “They will not deny you the emergency care, but they will charge you,” the Rigshospitalet patient representative said. 

This is a policy change that was initiated in the last few years, they noted. Emergency care in Denmark was free of charge even without a CPR number until 2019.

Non-urgent care 

Access to routine medical care, referrals to specialists, and hospital admission is usually handled by your general practitioner, who is assigned to you by the Danish government when you receive your CPR number and yellow health insurance card. But for those awaiting residency permits, things are a little more complicated. 

“If you are a citizen from [a non-European country], then you are only entitled to emergency treatment and all emergency treatment is against payment,” a patient advisor at Rigshospitalet-Glostrup stated.

“Then if you have relatives [who are EU citizens] during the lack of insurance, you are also entitled to treatment which is not emergency – like planned operation or examination at hospitals, but still it’s against payment,” they added. 

The Local’s reporter contacted the patient advice lines with health insurance queries after being referred to them by SIRI’s press service.

“I have various health conditions that I want to get checked but can’t because it’s not an ’emergency,'” one reader, who waited months without receiving her residence permit, told The Local.

“The insurance situation in the US is abysmal, but if I was there, I could at least sign up for insurance and be able to use it right away,” she added. 

Patient advisors say the best bet is to reach out to several local general practitioners and ask if they’re willing to see patients who don’t have a CPR on a pay-for-service basis. (It may take several tries: one reporter at the Local Denmark found that two GPs hung up the phone when she spoke English, and one said they do not accept patients without a CPR.) 


If you successfully recruit a willing GP, they’re able to refer you to specialists within the public health system, again on a pay-for-service basis, or get you admitted into a hospital. 

Your other option is to reach out directly to specialists at private hospitals that don’t require referrals. Care through private hospitals is likely to be more expensive. 

Do I need insurance? 

The short answer is that yes, if you don’t want to get stuck with a surprise bill if you get hit by a car or need to be hospitalised with Covid-19, you’ll need private insurance. 

But be careful – “Danish private health insurance” is something of a red herring. Many Danes do have access to private health insurance plans through their employer or pension group, but those are only a supplement to the national health programme (so that PFA health insurance on its own wouldn’t cover treatment for your hypothetical bike crash concussion at a public hospital.) 

When choosing an international plan – usually offered by the major health and travel insurance companies – be certain to read what’s included since it’s likely to differ from the standards in your home country. For example, many providers of international insurance won’t cover pre-existing conditions at all, or will only do so for a (substantial) additional fee. Others consider medications an extra. 

Also be vigilant for whether their network makes sense for where you live in Denmark, specifically. Some providers that say they have an extensive network only cover a handful of Denmark’s private hospitals.