Little change in reimbursements for travel costs despite COVID-19

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic which began in the spring of 2020, the number of trips reimbursed under the National Health Insurance saw little change in 2020. The number of trips for which clients used a taxi, as well as the number of such clients, plummeted in March–June 2020, but returned to the previous year’s level. 

Following the introduction of the Act on Transport Services, Kela-subsidised taxi services and taxi dispatch centres underwent a competitive tender process in July 2018. Information about taxi trips collected by dispatch centres usually reaches Kela with only a few weeks’ delay. This makes it possible to track the number of trips for which clients use a taxi and how they are distributed in the population in close to real time. 

Based on address data associated with trips made by taxi, it is possible to look at the share of region-to-region trips for which clients used a taxi. Nationwide, the share of such trips is about 6%, but an analysis of individual regions shows wide differences. In regions with a university hospital, service use occurs mainly within the region, and the percentage of interregional trips is as low as two percent. In contrast, in such regions as Kainuu, Keski-Pohjanmaa, Etelä-Savo and Kanta-Häme, nearly one in five trips for which clients used a taxi ended in another region.   

Higher copayment rates have reduced the number of Kela-subsidised trips

The number of trips for which Kela paid a reimbursement has declined significantly since 2012. This can be explained by higher copayments: in 2013–2016, the copayment was increased three times, going up from 9.25 euros to 25 euros.

As a result, certain low-cost trips, especially those for which clients use their own car or public transport, are no longer covered. Conversely, the share of trips made by taxi has increased.  

Reimbursements for travel costs are typically paid to the elderly, and trips to or from hospital are the most common type of reimbursed travel. Among those who use a lot of travel services are such groups are dialysis and cancer patients. Many young persons travel to a rehabilitation provider for example to attend Kela-subsidised physical therapy. 

In 2020, half of the one-way trips reimbursed by Kela cost up to 50 euros. The cost varies depending on the type of transport used. The least expensive options are using one’s own car or public transport, while the costliest modes of transport are helicopter or ambulance transport.

The expenditure on reimbursements for travel costs is highest in Pohjois-Pohjanmaa and Uusimaa, which has a relatively large population. However, on a per-client basis, the largest reimbursements are paid in sparsely populated areas, especially Lapland and Kainuu.

Kela provides reimbursement for healthcare-related travel costs

Kela pays reimbursements for travel costs related to trips made to a healthcare or rehabilitation provider in connection with illness, pregnancy, childbirth or rehabilitation. Clients can get a reimbursement for using a taxi if that is their only alternative taking into account their health or difficult travel arrangements.

Statistics

Research (in Finnish)

Research blog (in Finnish) 

Contact information

  • Päivi Tillman, Senior Researcher, tel. 020 634 1924
  • Tuomas Sarparanta, Statistician, tel. 020 634 1535
  • Päivi Rastas, Statistician, tel. 050 308 8930

email: firstname.lastname@kela.fi

More information on reimbursements for travel costs