How To Die In Sweden
Walter Williams writes in the WT of waiting lists just to get on waiting lists for medical care in Britain, a national health care system that isn’t much different in Canada, and how it works in a country whose national health care we don’t often hear about — Sweden:
Canadians have an option Britainers don’t: proximity of American hospitals. In fact, the Canadian government spends more than $1 billion each year for Canadians to receive medical treatment in our country. I wonder how much money the U.S. government spends for Americans to be treated in Canada.
“OK, Williams,” you say, “Sweden is the world’s socialist wonder.” Sven R. Larson tells about some of Sweden’s problems in “Lesson from Sweden’s Universal Health System: Tales from the Health-care Crypt,” published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (spring 2008). Mr. D., a Gothenburg multiple sclerosis patient, was prescribed a new drug. His doctor’s request was denied because the drug was 33 percent more expensive than the older medicine. Mr. D. offered to pay for the medicine himself but was prevented from doing so. The bureaucrats said it would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.
Malmo, with its 280,000 residents, is Sweden’s third-largest city. To see a physician, a patient must go to one of two local clinics before they can see a specialist. The clinics have security guards to keep patients from getting unruly as they wait hours to see a doctor. The guards also prevent new patients from entering the clinic when the waiting room is considered full. Uppsala, a city of 200,000 people, has only one mammography specialist. Sweden’s National Cancer Foundation reports that in a few years most Swedish women will have no access to mammography.
Dr. Olle Stendahl, a professor of medicine at Linkoping University, pointed out a side effect of government-run medicine: its impact on innovation. He said, “In our budget-government health care there is no room for curious, young physicians and other professionals to challenge established views. New knowledge is not attractive but typically considered a problem [that brings] increased costs and disturbances in today’s slimmed-down health care.”
These are just a few of the problems of Sweden’s single-payer government-run health care system. I wonder how many Americans would like a system that would, as in the case of Mr. D. of Gothenburg, prohibit private purchase of your own medicine if the government refused paying.
We have problems in our health care system but most of them are a result of too much government. More than 50 percent of health care expenditures in our country are made by government. Government health care advocates might say they will avoid the horrors of other government-run systems. Don’t believe them.
The American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, who published Sven Larson’s paper, is a group of liberty-oriented doctors and health care practitioners who haven’t sold their members down the socialist river as have other medical associations. They deserve our thanks for being a major player in the ’90s defeat of “Hillary care.”
People will say, “That won’t happen here in America,” because we’ve had a capitalism-ish system. But, the Obama administration makes no bones about their desire for wealth redistribution in the name of fairness (not that the Republicans were ever the “small government” types they claim to be). So, we really can’t say how far this will go. Also, innovation is surely going to be a problem if government is running the show, just for starters, because innovators are likely to shy away from becoming part of a vast medi-bureaucracy.
And regarding who we do take care of — who I think we should take care of — the mentally ill, the homeless, and others who truly can’t help themselves. But, I think we need to encourage people to behave responsibly. Can’t afford health care for two children? Have one — or none.
More on Sweden’s health care here, by David Hogberg, Ph.D., a senior policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research:
While Sweden is a first world country, its health care system – at least in regards to access – is closer to the third world. Because the health care system is heavily-funded and operated by the government, the system is plagued with waiting lists for surgery. Those waiting lists increase patients’ anxiety, pain and risk of death.
Sweden’s health care system offers two lessons for the policymakers of the United States. The first is that a single-payer system is not the answer to the problems faced as Americans. Sweden’s system does not hold down costs and results in rationing of care. The second lesson is that market-oriented reforms must permit the market to work. Specifically, government should not protect health care providers that fail to provide patients with a quality service from going out of business.
When the United States chooses to reform its health care system, reform should lead to improvement. Reforming along the lines of Sweden would only make our system worse.