Sweden's new laws for the new year
As usual every year, on January 1st many new laws go into effect in Sweden and this year they concern everything from patient rights to online protection.
This new legislation was put forward by the former center-right government that was in power until the September elections. Among the new laws that went into effect at midnight Thursday, it’s now easier to prosecute online abuse, and patients have more say into the kind of treatment they receive.
Heathcare is administered by county councils, and the new law includes allowing patients to choose which county they want to be treated in. Johan Assarsson, who carried out a study on the patient law for the previous center-right government, says it’s an obvious improvement:
“It sharpens the whole system,” he says. If diabetes care in one county is poor, and diabetics start to apply to another county, then it’s a wake up for the first county to improve its care.”
The new patient law includes two other important points. It establishes that patients have the right to know what illness they have, what treatment is available, and how long they will have to wait to be treated. It also gives patients with a serious disease the right to get a second opinion from another doctor, to make sure they are getting the treatment that is best for them.
Another new law deals with internet abuse, making it easier for individuals to bring on prosecutions for online slander. Previously victims had the difficult task of bringing a suit by themselves, as there were tough restrictions on what prosecutors could act on. Now those limitations have been eased and more victims can seek the help of the authorities, and save what can be inhibiting legal costs.
Former Justice Minister Beatrice Ask tells Swedish Radio News this is an important reform: “We think it will be easier for people to respond to slander and insults now,” she says. Online hatred and similar expressions should not be tolerated.”
Also beginning January 1st taxi customers have more rights. They can get a price estimate for the cost of a journey before it begins. And a taxi company that charges more than SEK 500 for 10 kilometers has to inform the customer what the highest price for the trip can be. The price information has to be documented and can be checked afterwards. And the price cannot exceed what was agreed upon by the driver and the customer.
The goal, former Infrastructure Minister Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd tells Swedish Radio News, is that few customers will experience unexpectedly high rates and price gouging:
“We believe this will stop people being tricked about prices, and make them more aware of rates,” she says. “So they have an honest chance of making a choice before they start the journey.”
Other new legislation makes it easier for an immigrant who is the parent or guardian of a child who needs protection can get residence in Sweden if both asylum applications are taken up together.
While the new government may make some adjustments in its spring budget, there are areas where the two political blocks are in agreement. Deductions for saving in pensions funds have been sharply reduced, and the taxes on tobacco and alcohol have gone up.