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

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
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.

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 borger.dk 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.) 

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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. 


Member comments

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  1. British nationals taking up residence in Denmark after 1st January 2021 (and therefore not covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement) are able to use the new GHIC card to get access to emergency healthcare. If someone is legally resident here but has not yet been issued with a yellow card, they can still access healthcare by being given an emergency CPR number. Any Brits who are waiting for their CPR to come through who need medical treatment should contact the British Embassy if they are having problems.

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