Basic social assistance: Medicines and pharmacy vouchers

When you are granted basic social assistance, you will usually also receive an electronic voucher which you can use to buy the medication you need. Paper vouchers are available from Kela only if you do not have a Finnish personal identity code. The voucher is for personal use only.

How to use a voucher

  1. Details about the voucher are transmitted electronically to pharmacies. The voucher can be redeemed at the pharmacy one day after it has been granted.
  2. You can visit any pharmacy you wish. Present your Kela card or other reliable ID so that the pharmacy can look up your voucher.
  3. If you do not let the pharmacy look up your voucher details, you will have to pay full price for the medication.
  4. The pharmacy can look up your voucher when you pick up prescription medication. The voucher will remain accessible to the pharmacy as long as it is valid.

Only medication and other products prescribed to you for the treatment of an illness can be supplied on a voucher. You can get up to three months' worth of medication at one time. You cannot get a refill until you have used up nearly all of the previous batch in accordance with the prescription. The pharmacy will substitute a less expensive generic product for the brand named in the prescription except if your doctor has ruled out such a substitution.

The pharmacy can also supply, based on a voucher,

  • prescription contraceptives
  • over-the-counter medicines licensed for sale in Finland and products that have been assigned a Nordic product number (Vnr), provided that they have been prescribed for the treatment of an illness.

The voucher usually expires on the same date as the decision granting basic social assistance. Vouchers cannot be granted retroactively.

You can also choose not to use a voucher and instead pay for the medication yourself. In that case, you will not receive a direct reimbursement from the pharmacy, and will have to claim reimbursement from Kela afterwards. Kela can recognise copayments for medication as a social assistance eligible expense under the same conditions which apply to the provision of a voucher towards the purchase of medication.

Restricted vouchers

Kela can place certain restrictions on the use of a voucher. The voucher can be 

  • for a period of time shorter than that for which the decision to grant basic social assistance is valid
  • for one purchase only           
  • for a specific medication or group of medicines only
  • for products that the voucher as such does not cover (such as medicines for compassionate use licensed for use by a specific patient)

If you need medication which is not covered by the voucher, include with your application the patient instruction sheet or a statement by a doctor, specialist or other healthcare professional indicating that you need the medication in question.

Urgent situations

If you need social assistance or a pharmacy voucher urgently, contact a Kela service point or call Kela at 020 634 2550. Any applications judged urgent are processed within two working days. If an urgent need arises outside Kela's opening hours, please contact your municipality's emergency social services. In urgent cases, the voucher is transmitted to the pharmacy immediately.