Residents of Finland and people with the EHIC have the right to healthcare in Finland and can access publicly financed health services. In addition, people with no permanent abode in Finland can access services, but in general they are expected to pay for them out of pocket. If a patient does not pay their bill, the state will reimburse the hospital district for the care given.(1) Health stations for undocumented migrants run by NGOs (Global Clinic) have been closed due to the epidemic and their patients are directed to public healthcare providers. Closing down the Global Clinics may decrease access to services for other health needs for the undocumented migrants, especially outside of Helsinki, since the City of Helsinki has agreed before to provide essential health services to undocumented migrants the same way as to its residents.
According to the Communicable Diseases Act (2016) and Act on Client Charges in Healthcare and Social Welfare (1992) the treatment including diagnostic tests and medicines of generally hazardous communicable diseases, such as COVID-19, are free of costs for all patients, independent of their regular rights to health care in Finland. Otherwise, ordinary regulations apply on sickness allowances. With regard to special measures due to pandemic, persons who have been ordered to stay away from work, in isolation or quarantine, get infectious disease allowance to compensate for earning losses upon physician’s certification. Carers for children under 16 years of age in quarantine are also entitled to the allowance. People who are recommended (vs mandated) to self-isolate or stay away from work are not entitled to infectious disease allowance.
On May 18 2020, KELA informed about changes to eligibility in access to free treatment for COVID-19. According to the KELA press release MSAH had modified its guidance on access to free medical treatment for COVID-19. According to the new guidance, the treatment is provided free of charge to foreigners and to the registered residents of Finnish municipalities. Treatment is also available at no cost to persons who qualify for a KELA certificate on entitlement to medical care. To everyone else, such as undocumented migrants, treatment for COVID-19, like other medical care, is available for a fee. KELA’s claim on the restriction in free COVID-19 treatment was contested by the Minister of Social Affairs and Health who informed that MSAH was untangling the issue. (2)
When THL issued facemask guidance, it also mandated municipalities to provide facemasks to low-income residents. All cities began distributing facemasks to all those who wanted them, not tied to declaring income or providing identification income reports or other identification. As distribution began newspapers reported also well-off residents fetching masks for their own use, to the outrage of the public. Further discussions were held about the distributed masks, which in some cities thought stigmatizing, as they could potentially identify the wearer as a low-income person (3).