Healthcare will always be a problem

I went to a healthcare town hall meeting today.  It was attended by  a couple hundred people.  There was probably a policeman for every 30 people at least.  While many questions were asked and comments made on both sides, it remained respectful, so I guess we won’t make news.

One of the comments made was about the Swedish model, so I decided to come home and do a couple hours research on healthcare in Sweden.  What they have is a public/private mix of providers with a federal/local mix of oversight and financing.  In American terms, everybody is on medicaid with the “better off” folks paying for it.  What is different in Sweden is the level of taxation.  Income tax rates are 31-57%.  Thats 31% for the lowest tax bracket.  In addition, there is a VAT (value added tax, or sales tax) of 25% on almost every purchase with some exceptions made for basic food etc.  This tax structure does buy a healthcare system where everyone is covered, and there is a very small co-payment.  What happened, though, was in a generation Sweden went from being the third richest nation in the world to being 22nd, behind most of the rest of Europe.  What also happened, despite the hefty taxes, was an increase in the deficit.  Sweden’s national debt in comparison to its gross domestic product is about twice ours.  The healthcare system Sweden got for the money has waiting lines.  Some of the waiting lines are life threatening, such as an 11 month wait for cardiac care.  Just google “Swedish Healthcare” and form your own opinion.  Also google “Swedish taxes”, “Swedish per capita income” and “Swedish national debt.”  Healthcare IS expensive, no matter what reforms are done. 

I agree with the Heritage Foundation  that what we really need to be asking is “What is the Value of what we are getting for our money?”  In our system, everyone who is truly sick gets cared for, and the cost of it gets settled eventually (a lot of charity write-offs etc).  In the Swedish system, at a high price to their country, everyone who is truly sick gets cared for—eventually, if they don’t die while on the waiting list.

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3 Responses to “Healthcare will always be a problem”

  1. tokyobling Says:

    Well, you have some good points but there are a few things missing in your argument. Swedish taxes are spent on many more things than health care (free education from kindergarten to Post-Doctorate level for example). Sweden is also accepting a huge number of refugees from various trouble zones in the world (Iraq for example, 50 000 people last year alone: compared to the very few admitted by the US). All of this drains “the riches” of the country. So you can’t really blame the Swedish health care system for that. Also, what is richness? I would argue that having a healthy population is one of those “unmeasurables” that add up in the long run. You should perhaps compare with happiness indexes and quality of life indexes. Also, crime rates, infant mortality rates, literacy etc.

    Health care is one system among many, in any country. It is all connected. One thing I don’t get is, if many Americans are so negative to public health care why do the same people often support other publicly founded groups, like the Army, the Firefighters, etc?

    Several aspects of public health are in many ways as urgent as firefighting, take for example tubercolosis, drug addiction etc.

    Just my ten cents.

  2. michellespagefornonni Says:

    I agree with you that Sweden has numerous other social programs as well as healthcare. My hat is off to them for taking 50,000 Iraqis. However, the United States has taken millions of economic refugees every year, so we are in much the same situation with immigration and its expense. The point I am trying to make is that healthcare and other social programs are expensive, and we need to ask if we are getting value for the money. Is the Swedish healthcare system better than others for what is being spent on it? Are the people healthier? Does government expenditure per person result in healthier, happier people?Whether theirs is a better system or not, the fact remains that despite exorbitant taxes, Sweden will soon have to worry about its debt load or it may end up like Argentina. Sweden’s level of taxes and spending are just unsustainable.

    An interesting aside is your comment that if we have an army, firefighters, etc., whats wrong with having government healthcare. Well, for one thing, the army, firefighters (and libraries and the highway department) don’t interfere with our private lives and they don’t have within their structure the ability to make life and death decisions for us. Its one thing to set up a structure where poor people get help with medical expenses and another thing for government to take over management of healthcare for the whole country, including the rationing of care.

  3. tokyobling Says:

    The main point I would make in favour of public health care is that it is cheaper for the society to help poor people when they are slightly sick rather than bail them out when they are criminally sick (i.e. abusing the emergency services, passing their problems/addictions/diseases/crimes on to others). In the same way that a government does the life/death decision to instruct fire fighters to protect even uninsured buildings from fires to avoid having whole areas burned down.

    Also, have a look at the economic damage caused by the huge number of bankruptancies (spelling?) caused by health problems, many of which could have been avoided.

    Society does all sorts of things by collecting fees and taxes, I am not talking about liberal/democrat political differences here, just: “How much do we believe that having an uninsured population costs us in terms of lost income, failed investments, sick hours, production down time, emergency services, crime, epidemics and law enforcement?”. If we as a society decides it is not worth it (neither humanly nor economically) than scrap the idea for all sakes!

    I just think that, “a stitch in time”.

    By the way, Swedish doctors work very similarly to American doctors, whether private or public. They don’t make life or death decisions, they do their best to help everybody. All the time. To do anything else is illegal, just as it is in America and most other countries.

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